Rutherglen Christmas Trees' choose and cut operation a hit with festive buyers

A vision to turn his small holding of 15 hectares to the east of Rutherglen into a viable farming venture is beginning to reap benefits for Neil Hewitt.

Mr Hewitt operates Rutherglen Christmas Trees, a choose and cut operation which was first planted in 2009, and he has strategically added to over the following five years to produce a range of tree sizes and shapes.

“It’s slowly built up,” he said.

“We’ve been selling in since 2013 and it’s gone from 30 to 35 trees that first year and up to last season it was 230 trees, this season’s obviously not finished yet but it looks like building on last year.”

After a planting break of several years Mr Hewitt put in a further 550 radiata pine during August taking total plantings to about 5000 trees.

“You do lose some here and there to birds or rabbits, or just nature from time to time,” he said.

“Like everything in farming, you want to do one thing and nature wants to do another.

“I planted with a view of a five-year growing window. Now the trees all vary in height, density and slightly different in taper.”

He said the Christmas tree season started in November and will run right up until Christmas Eve.

However, Mr Hewitt expects the next two weekends to be the busiest of the year as families search for their perfect fresh-cut tree.

The farm is open weekends but will also open on weekdays by appointment.

“In early November the real Christmas diehards come and tag a tree, secure their tree, and then come and cut it closer to Christmas,” he said.

“The first and second weekend of December it gets serious but we’re open up to Christmas Eve.”

The farm prices the trees on size, buyers are given a measuring pole and get to roam the paddocks to choose the tree they like.

It is then cut for them to take immediately.

Mr Hewitt, originally from South Australia, spent years working on the land while travelling across Australia in a converted coach, before settling in the famous North East wine region almost a decade ago.