Monday, May 7, 2012

Members met Saturday May 5th at Schartner's Farm in Exeter, RI for an IPM presentation by Rich Cowles, a tour of the farm and a great lunch next to the pond.  If you missed our meeting this year see our next Newsletter for full summary.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

February 23 Board Minutes

Rhode Island Christmas Tree Growers Association

Dinner meeting – February 23, 2011

6pm - Leo’s Ristorante, 365 Hope Street, Bristol, RI

- Minutes -


Stu Nunnery; NE Farmways

Wayne Gunderman

Don and Elenor Gavin

David Henry

George, Siobhan & Laura Thurston

Karen Menezes

Eric Watne

Jeanie Bento

Patty and Steve Trombley

Bob Fleischbein & Judy Lord

Cheryl & Ron Rossi

Membership report – Cheryl Rossi

o As of today (February 23rd)there are 28 paid members. A number of folks who have been long-standing members have not yet paid their dues, so it is anticipated we will receive more dues in the next week. Dues mailed after March 1 will be assessed a $10 late fee. Cheryl will call delinquent members, and Catherine Watne will call Commercial prospects (Kelco, Fieldworks, Farm Family, etc.)

Finance report – Wayne Gunderman

o Wayne distributed a detailed financial summary of our 2010 Financial activities which I will not reproduce here, however in summary: RICTGA finished 2010 with a net operating loss of ($181.) It should be noted that we did incur a one-time cost to the IRS of $400 application fee for federal non-profit status, an expense we will not incur going forward. We do have a positive balance in the account as of January 1, 2011 of $1893 due to the fact we started 2010 with a balance of $2074. and during 2010 had revenues of $2325 and expenses of $2506.

Vice President’s report – Karen Menezes

o Entomologists Rich Cowles from the Connecticut Experiment Station and Steve Alm from the University of Rhode Island have collaborated on a grant to include Rhode Island Christmas Tree Growers. The grant will target pests that are attacking the Christmas Trees in Connecticut and Rhode Island. I will be involved in this grant

o The Ag Partnership has established a draft Strategic Plan for Agriculture in Rhode Island. The Ag Partnership is an organization funded by the Barbara Van Buren Trust and I am representing the Rhode Island Christmas Tree Growers. The Strategic Plan targets problems and needs for the Agricultural community in Rhode Island.

o The USDA Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service and The University of Rhode Island are sponsoring a Women in Ag Conference on March 31, 2011 at the University of Rhode Island Narragansett Bay Campus, Coastal Institute Building, South Ferry Road, N. Kingstown Rhode Island. Register with Shelly Pezza, Pezza Farm. 2279 Plainfield Pike, Johnston, RI 02919 $20.00 PP $25.00 PP after March 21st.

 Being a woman Farmer

 Opportunities & Challenges of being a Woman in Agriculture

 Beginning Farmer - Things to Know

 Financial Opportunities for Women

 Marketing Ideas

 Balancing Farm and Family

 How we Started

 Transitioning the Farm to the next generation

 Networking - Facebook, Twitter, Chamber of Commerce

 Where do we go from here and looking forward

o The University of New Hampshire, Cooperative Extension is holding their Christmas Tree Pest Management Course on March 16-17 at Keene State College, Keene NH. The link is:

President’s report – Eric Watne

o Elections – on a motion by Karen Menezes, seconded by Jeanie Bento and approved by membership it was voted that all officers and directors from 2010 will remain in their current positions through 2011.

o Spring Field meeting - Membership indicated there is interest in a spring field meeting in late April or early May. Rich Cowles is a popular presenter/guest however we’re not sure he’ll be available or willing to attend. We also need a farm, hopefully on the west side of the state. David Henry offered his farm if no others were available. Bob Fleischbein is going to inquire with the Schartners. Eric and Karen will work to try and firm this up in the next month or so.

o Federal non-profit status - RICTGA applied for and was finally granted official non profit status from US Treasury – RICTGA is now a 501(c)6 federally tax-exempt organization. This will streamline annual tax filing and save money in the long term. It also gives us more credibility as a viable trade organization when competing for grant and other funds.

Section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code provides for the exemption of business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade, and professional football leagues, which are not organized for profit and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.” So like I said, RICTGA is just like the NFL!

o USDA/RI DEM Grant proceeds – Eric gave a summary presentation on the grant proceeds from our USDA/RI DEM grant that was awarded last year, and for which funds are available this year. The break-out is as follows: (note that funds are to be used over a two-year period, so in some cases may represent expenditures for 2011 and 2012.)

o Education $ 800 (NH Pesticide seminar/ Field meeting speaker)

o Website / Logo $ 400 (Improve logo/blog for better marketing)

o Farm signage $4,500 (member farm signs to reinforce “brand”)

o Newsletter $ 300 (third party design work to help w/Newsletter)

$6,000 (total grant award)

o New USDA/RI DEM grant funding round – expiration 3/31/11

 RI DEM is holding another grant round with a deadline of 3/31/11. Upon a vote by membership (proposed by Karen M and seconded by Jeanie Bento) it was agreed that Eric would submit another application on behalf of RICTGA in order to continue the marketing and educational initiatives pursued under the current grant.

 Wayne Gunderman also circulated news articles from the Providence Journal and Christmas Tree Growers newsletter that highlighted activities of RICTGA. Also brochures from other states he obtained at the Big E fair. It was agreed that RICTGA needs to create a brochure to replace the current obsolete one we have.

o Keene NH pesticide course March 16 & 17th

 Eric reiterated Karen’s remarks to members regarding the NE Pesticide conference in Keene, NH occurring March 16th and 17th David Henry also offered that from his perspective this course is the best educational opportunity for all aspects of Christmas Tree growers that he has attended. Included in the 2010 grant funds are monies to send RICTGA rep(s) to this conference in order to report back to membership. Eric is attending in this capacity. There are funds for another RICTGA member, however the proviso is that attendees are prepared to be a resources to membership and report out findings both in writing for the Newsletter/website as well as verbally at the next meeting of membership, which is likely to be the spring field meeting.

o Agricultural Surveys coming - Eric noted that he received the following request from Jan Eckhart who was unable to attend today’s meeting: “I would appreciate it if you could give the group a heads up that there will be two important surveys coming out soon. One from RINLA (nursery etc.) and the other from the RI Ag Partnership. We have been working with the EDC and URI. The first is an economic impact study and the second relates to the state of agriculture and its needs. If you could just urge the group to please respond to these surveys as they will be helpful to all of agriculture.”

Stu Nunnery then made a brief presentation on the purpose and current goals of New England Farmways. For those who are not aware of Stu’s organization, check out their website: NE Farmways acts as an informational conduit to bring public awareness to farms in ways that promote agriculture for a broad spectrum of potential revenue generators; from crops to the farms utility as a destination vacation, wedding and event sites or tour destinations. Since RICTGA is exploring creative marketing opportunities it seemed to be a good fit to connect with Stu and see what opportunities might exist to collaborate. We intend to continue these discussions, and anyone who wants to participate is invited to join.

Wrap –up.

o It was generally agreed by all attendees that folks enjoyed the dinner meeting and agreed that the social aspect of RICTGA is a tradition that should continue to be stressed. Next time we will meet as a group will be the Spring Field meeting. Date TBD but likely last Saturday of April or first Saturday of May. Meeting was adjourned by 8pm.

- End -

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tagging a Christmas tree for cutting is a wholesome tradition
11/19/2009 11:01 AM EST
By Bryan RourkeJournal Staff Writer

A tree is tagged with a colorful ribbon early in the holiday season.
The Providence Journal / Kathy Borchers

Don’t just get a Christmas tree. Get an experience.
This is what Eric Watne says. He’s the president of the Rhode Island Christmas Tree Growers Association and the owner of Clark’s Tree Farm in Tiverton. Every year he has a recurrent conversation with customers.
“How much are your trees?” they say.
“The trees are free,” Watne says. “The memories are $45.”
You’re not just buying a tree, farmers say; you’re having a family outing.
“My farm is like a park with a stream through the middle and a covered bridge,” says Ron Rossi of Rossi Tree Farm in Cranston. “If it’s a nice day, people will walk around for hours. They’ll find their tree in the first 10 minutes and then walk around 18 fields.”
In some places, such as Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, people can have coffee and a meal, and buy baked goods, honey and jam made on the premises.
“Buying a Christmas tree on a farm is a whole experience,” says Jan Eckhart, owner of Sweet Berry Farm. “People won’t get that experience in a parking lot.”
What people may get in a parking lot is often unclear. They may get a tree that could have been cut weeks earlier and shipped from Canada. It won’t last as long in the stand, and it’s not as environmentally friendly.
“It’s one thing if you’re buying roofing materials from Canada that will last 30 years, but a Christmas tree lasts three weeks,” Watne says. “The cost and gas to ship it is wasteful.”
’Tis the time to tag. Pick your preference. From late October to early December, people pay their respects to local tree farms, and pay their local farmers for a tree of their choice, which they’ll mark with a tag.
The idea is simple. Before you need your tree, you take your time selecting it. Ideally, you do this when the weather is nice, and the selection is large.
“Some people don’t want to be the last one going to a clearance sale and picking through all the sweaters that no one else has bought,” Watne says.
Tags placed on trees reserve them for the purchasers to claim at their convenience.
“You do it before the hectic holiday season begins,” Eckhart says. “It’s one more thing they can check off their list.”
But tagging a tree shouldn’t be seen as a task or a chore.
“It becomes a family tradition,” Watne says. “People drag their kids away from the Xbox and they mope around a bit and buy a tree.”
Actually, it’s not that simple — the choosing, not the moping. There are three general species of Christmas trees: spruce, fir and pine. There are dozens of varieties within each. And each tree within each variety of each species will look a little different — in size, shape, color, fullness.
You’ve got to make a choice. And the choice has got to be yours.
“People have different perspectives of what an ideal Christmas tree is,” Eckhart says. “A lot of that is influenced by what they had growing up.”
The “ideal” tree is a function of familiarity and nostalgic longing. A husband and wife who agree on everything may disagree on a tree if he grew up in a spruce household and she grew up in a fir family.
“There is a lot of verbal interchange,” Eckhart says. “You eventually get a summary decision. Or someone makes a major ruling.”
Sometimes customers ask farmers to settle disagreements. And farmers know not to.
“They ask me and I stay out of it,” Rossi says.
Sometimes customers attempt to resolve their indecision by leaving a particular farm and visiting a few others.
“They’ll spend an entire day looking at thousands of trees on four different farms,” Watne says. “I think that’s utterly ridiculous.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find an ugly tree on a Christmas tree farm, Watne says. But last year Watne found one and put it in his house.
“One of my daughters cried,” Watne says. “Maybe I’ll sound like a Scrooge, but why would I stick a tree in my house that I could sell when I could stick a tree in my house that no one would buy?”
Actually people do buy “ugly” trees, which are disguised as wreaths and garlands. But even an ugly tree is salvageable.
“Once you get them decorated, they’re all beautiful,” Watne says.
So pick your preference. Spruces have stronger branches that can hold heavier ornaments, but they also have sharp needles. Firs and pines have weaker branches and soft needles, and a stronger aroma.
But deciding what you want before you get to the farm is a waste of time.
“People will come for one type of tree and leave with another,” Rossi says. “They read articles and see pictures. They think they want a Fraser fir and leave with a white spruce.”
For the record, white spruces are not white.
“They’re green to blue,” Eckhart says. “Why they’re called white, I don’t know. Nothing is simple.”
Well, cutting the tree down is pretty straightforward. All the farms will cut a tree for you, unless you ask to do it yourself.
“It’s usually the men who want to do it,” Eckhart says. “I think the women are smarter. They just want it cut and wrapped. The men want to go into the woods, cut the tree, throw it over their shoulder and drag it back. It’s primordial.”
It’s also not as easy as it looks.
“I’m happy to hand them the saw and let them do it,” Watne says. “You have to lay on the ground. It’s generally a little wet. And some people get halfway through and lose enthusiasm.”
That’s just as well.
“Some cut on an angle,” Rossi says. “So I have to cut it anyway to straighten it out.”
Okay, so let’s say you’ve picked a tree and cut it.
“I’ve been asked how much a tree will grow after it’s been cut and in the stand,” Eckhart says. “They want to know how much bigger it will get by Christmas.”
Remind yourself not to ask a farmer that question. A cut tree doesn’t grow. But it does live, sort of.
Keep plenty of water in the stand, and keep the stand away from a radiator.
“Make a fresh cut of the trunk before putting it in water,” Eckhart says. “Trees should be treated like flowers.”
The following article appeared in the Providenc Journal Sunday edition - Page 1!
(Pictures did not transfer to the blog for some reason)

Hunt begins at Tiverton farm for ideal Christmas tree
01:00 AM EST on Sunday, November 29, 2009
By Steve PeoplesJournal Staff Writer

Kathy and Matt Poirier, of Somerset, and their son Matthew, 5, talk to Emily Watne, 15, who was giving rides on Sparky, a Welsh Shetland pony at Clark’s Tree Farm in Tiverton.
The Providence Journal / Kathy BorchersNicholas Aprea cuts down a tree at Clark’s Tree Farm on Main Road in Tiverton.
Journal / Kathy Borchers
TIVERTON –– The little girls run ahead, disappearing among the tangles of Frasers, Canaans and spruce.
“Come back here!” David Herfert shouts, a half-hearted request he knows will be ignored.
The Herfert girls are on a quest.
Mackenzie trots through the heart of Clarks Christmas Tree Farm, a red Santa’s cap covering her blonde locks. Olivia, two weeks shy of her 3rd birthday, tries to keep up.
It’s 27 days before Christmas, and these girls have waited long enough.
“We always do it after Thanksgiving,” explains their mother, Kim, holding the Tiverton family’s newest addition, 1-year-old Kennedy. “The kids get so excited. They listen to Christmas music year round.”
The Herferts were among dozens of families that braved Saturday’s biting winds to search out the perfect tree at Clarks, a quaint tree farm with the little red gate off Main Road that offers customers free pony rides, hot cider and reggae holiday tunes.
Rhode Island’s tree farms are now entering their busy season, when weekends will bring carloads of excited children and parents willing to spend between $45 and $70 to preserve this American holiday tradition, despite the poor economy.
“Whatever they cut back on, people still get a Christmas tree if that’s their tradition,” said Eric Watne, who has operated Clarks with his wife and two daughters for the last five years.
But the number of Christmas tree farms in Rhode Island has fallen significantly in recent years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And sales are down nationally.
The Ocean State featured 60 such tree farms in 2002, but just 49 in 2007, according to the most recent federal census of agriculture. This year, the number has dropped to 34, according to a list provided by the Rhode Island Christmas Tree Growers Association.
While sales data wasn’t available for Rhode Island, national sales of “cut Christmas trees and short-rotation woody crops” totaled $384.6 million in 2007, down nearly 4 percent from $399.8 million in 2002, according to the USDA survey.
Watne, who also serves as the president of the R.I. Christmas Tree Growers Association, said his farm probably would have died when it was up for sale five years ago. His wife was the real estate agent with the listing, and most of the interest came from developers who likely would have subdivided the 8-acre property.
“I feel like I have to keep this thing going,” said Watne, who has a day job working for Fannie Mae.
In addition to development pressures, Watne said that some local growers took a hit in recent years after state officials determined that that live trees could create fire hazards in some public buildings.
“There’s a lot of misinformation,” he contended. “Live trees, unless they’re totally dried out, they’re not going to leap into flames.”
The issue has created considerable debate between artificial tree producers and farmers.
The Web site for the Rhode Island Christmas Tree Growers Association, for example, offers a section on “Fake Tree Facts.” It includes a color photo of an artificial tree fire that engulfs a home.
But the American Christmas Tree Association, based in West Hollywood, Calif., fights back on its Web site, saying “U.S. fire departments responded to more than 200 home structure fires annually from 2002 to 2005 that began with Christmas trees.” But the Herfert family isn’t concerned about economic trends or fire safety statistics.“It’s the cardinal sin of Christmas,” Kim Herfert says of buying an artificial tree, as she trails her giggling children. “That wouldn’t compare to the scent, the feel of doing this.”
And after nearly half an hour of weaving through rows of trees, Mackenzie has accomplished her mission.
“We found it! We found it!” she shouts, standing alongside a pudgy 7-foot Fraser fir.
Fifteen minutes later, longtime farm worker Nicholas Aprea, of Newport, has used a handsaw to cut the tree and tie it to the roof of the family’s SUV.
“Merry Christmas,” he says to baby Kennedy, who waves back.
The Herferts maneuver down the dirt path, through the red gates and toward home. They plan to spend the evening decorating their new tree.
More information about Christmas tree farms in Rhode Island can be found at:
The following educational opportunity came across from the RICTGA website:

Christmas Tree Management Short Course Scheduled Ricky M. Bates Associate Professor of Horticulture Department of Horticulture, Penn State
Penn State’s 2010 Christmas Tree Management Short Course will be held at the Ramada Inn and Conference Center in State College, PA, Wednesday February 10 and Thursday February 11. Sponsored by the College of Agricultural Sciences and the Department of Horticulture, the course attracts Christmas tree growers from over 12 states and Canada.
The course is designed to help growers adopt the latest pest control, production and business management practices. Core and Category pesticide re-certification credits from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will be available to those attending the course. This year’s program represents a broad range of topics and highlights conifer pest and cultural management and farm business management.
A sampling of this year’s speakers and topics include:
• Mel Koelling (Michigan State Univ.) - Fraser fir management, Tips for managing a successful farm
• John Ahrens (Conn. Agric. Experiment Station) – Vegetation management update
• Rich Cowles (Conn. Agric. Experiment Station) – Controlling scales on Christmas trees
• Tracey Olson, Cathy Thomas, Sarah Pickle, Sandy Gardosik, Rayanne Lehman (PDA) – Hands-on, intensive pest management workshops
• Rick Bates (Penn State) – Best Management Practices (BMP’s) for Christmas tree farms, Nordmann fir research update
• Eric Lorenz & Kerry Hoffman Richards (Penn State) – Worker protection standards
• Tracey Harpster (Penn State) – Pesticide safety
• Andy Beck (Penn State) – Christmas tree information resources
Plus several other speakers and topics.
A registration fee of $185 includes all educational sessions, instructional materials, breaks and lunches for Feb 10 and 11. Registration for one day is $105. A complete agenda and registration forms will be mailed shortly after Christmas. Registration deadline is Friday, Feb. 5, 2010. If you do not receive a registration form or need additional information, please call the Christmas Tree Management Short Course office at (814) 863-7713 or e-mail Rick Bates at A block of rooms have been reserved at The Ramada Inn and Conference Center at a special rate of $61. Reserve a room at a by calling (814) 238-3001, and indicate you are attending the Christmas Tree Short Course. Room reservations should be made by January 11, 2010 to receive the reduced rate.
Dave Despot

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


You are hereby invited to attend the 2009 Fall meeting of the RICTGA Board of Directors on Thursday October 15, 2009
The meeting will be held at the Ramada Inn in Seekonk, MA. 940 Fall River Avenue (Rt 6) Seekonk, MA 02771
(See link below for directions)

We will meet at 6PM for cocktails and dinner. This will be “pay as you go” so you are welcome to eat and drink as much or little as your constitution and the law allows.

Board Meeting will commence at 7PM
All are invited to attend – Draft Agenda posted below.
If you have an agenda item you would like to add please let me know, or you can bring it up during “New Business” discussion.

If you plan to attend please RSVP via return e-mail to any of the officers listed below so we can estimate attendance. No need to reply if you will not be attending.

For directions please follow this link:

Hope to see folks next Thursday!!

Eric Watne
Karen Menezes
Wayne Gunderman &Catherine Watne

REMINDER:If you plan to make changes to your farm page on the RICTGA website, you must get those changes to me no later than this Friday, October 9th! I know I said October 1 in the Newsletter, but you are getting a short reprieve.

ALSO: If anyone has concrete evidence in their old RICTGA files (i.e. Treasury letter, IRS ruling, etc) that RICTGA is a certified non-profit (federally registered as a 501 (c) 3 ) please forward that to me ASAP! Thanks!

RICTGA Draft fall 2009 Agenda

  • Presidents report
  • Treasurer report
    Checking account
    Break-even analysis
    Dues (options vs. benefits currently provided)
  • Tax Exempt status
  • Membership Report –
    Membership issues
    Form of dues notice for 2010 - timing
    Amount of dues (Budget report)
    Accounting for: fees/members/deposits
    Options for collecting - Late fees/Early credits? Remove from Web w/fee to restate
    Add on/credit for e-mail, early pmt, officers
  • NECTA membership
  • RI AG membership
  • Spring dinner location
  • Summer field meeting location and speaker
  • Spring IMP course in Keene NH
  • Other: Marketing
    Classifieds for tree farms
  • New Business

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dear fellow RICTGA member; September 2009

Greetings from your new slate of 2009 officers! I started writing this in May, and am just now getting around to finishing and sending it out. Much has occurred over the past year so I’ll apologize in advance for the wordiness of this letter, but thought it was important to provide membership with this status report. I am writing you both in my capacity as incoming President of RICTGA, but also in my capacity as Newsletter chairman. (No comments about government control of the presses please!) I’d like to thank Wayne Gunderman for many years of his efforts producing the newsletter. It was always a treat to receive, and forgive me in advance if there’s an immediate drop in quality. I’d like to use the first letter to bring members up to date on what we are doing, a couple things that have happened this year, and what we plan to explore for the near future.

You are aware by now that on March 26th RICTGA held elections for 2009 officers. Those officers elected are as follows:

President Eric Watne
Vice President Karen Menezes
Secretary Catherine Watne
Treasurer Wayne Gunderman

Regional Directors
East Don Gavin
South Bob Fleishbein
North John Emin
At large Jay Bento
Immediate Past President Jane Durning

Budget Eric Watne
Legislative Jay Bento
Membership Cheryl Rossi
Program Karen Menezes
Publicity and Publications Eric Watne
We eliminated one of the Director positions in each region (there used to be 2 per region) as well as the Marketing & Research director and Fundraising director. The NECTA Chairperson and RI AG Council director positions are currently vacant.

On behalf of all members of the RICTGA I would like to thank Jane Durning, Bob Balme, and Karen Menezes for their past years of selfless service to RICTGA as President, Treasurer and Vice President respectively. While Jane, Karen and Bob have stepped down, Karen has agreed to remain in her position which has been a great help to me due to her years of experience. It is only through membership participation that we continue as a viable organization.

At the March dinner/board meeting members also voted to revise/update the Constitution and By-Laws to reflect changes to how RICTGA will operate going forward. Those changes were summarized in the last newsletter mailed 3/29/09. Full copies of both those documents have been uploaded and can now be viewed on our website.

Important Sad Items of Note in 2009;

By now folks are aware that in early July Horatio Chase of Greene Tree Farm & Nursery was involved in a tractor accident while mowing his fields that left him badly burned. While recovering from those injuries at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston he subsequently contracted pneumonia and passed away July 30th. For those who knew Horatio knew him as a dedicated, resourceful and tenacious farmer dedicated to RICTGA as well as a number of other agricultural organizations. Horatio was a long-time president of RICTGA, and most recently served as New England Christmas Tree Alliance (“NECTA”) director with Jay Bento. Together they attended all NECTA meetings in Massachusetts on behalf of RICTGA. In line with the families wishes RICTGA will donate $100 to the Kingston, RI 4-H in his memory.

Another loss to the RICTG family was suffered April 14th of this year with the passing of Janice Clark. Leo and Janice started Clarks Christmas Tree Farm in Tiverton in 1958, and is the farm Catherine and I operate today. Her passing is not just a loss for us, but Janice and Leo’s longstanding involvement in RICTGA and their friendships with growers around New England leaves us all with a great sadness in her passing. I only hope that their many years spent growing Christmas trees is the reason they both have been so healthy for such a long time!

Karen Menezes passed the following information to members via e-mail on September 8th, but I will add a note here for those who did not see this previously;Amanda Amundsen and her husband Al used to be members of the RICTGA back in the day. Amanda and Al were very involved with the New England Alliance. Amanda passed away September 7th after a courageous battle with cancer. Their farm was Wrights Mill Tree Farm, 60 Creasy Road, in Canterbury Ct. 06331.

Other Notes;
Wayne Gunderman has offered to organize a RICTGA deep sea fishing trip late summer/early fall if there is sufficient interest. Not sure if that is still in the works, but if any members are interested and would like additional information please contact Wayne directly.

Jeannie Bento was awarded the “Conservation Farmer of the Year” by the Rhode Island Agricultural Council. This is a great honor for any farm, and we’re especially proud that it was “one of our own.” The award recognizes Jeannie and Jay’s conservation practices at Pachet Brook Farm in Tiverton. Congratulations Jeannie!

RICTGA has a Blog! For those not computer savvy, a Blog is a mechanism for groups or individuals to communicate with a large audience in “real time” and share information at little or no cost. The advantage to RICTGA members is that we can disseminate information (educational information/meeting announcements, photographs, etc.) at no cost. Every time we update our RICTGA website we pay Mouseworks an hourly fee. There is a link to our Blog on the RICTGA website under the “News/Events” tab. The goal with the Blog site is to maintain a central repository for information useful to members that we can alter and update without incurring fees. This Newsletter has been posted to the Blog! Anyone who wishes to post anything on our Blog please send it to me. If you add your name as a “follower” of the blog from the site you will automatically receive notices of updates to the Blog.

RICTGA 2009 Summer Field Meeting:
David Henry and his staff were kind enough to allow RICTGA members to use Henry’s Tree Farm as the site for the summer field meeting May 16th. There were about 20 attendees, and Richard Cowles of the Ct Agricultural Experiment Station was our guest speaker. (Many thanks to Karen for securing Rich for this meeting.) As those who have seen Rich’s excellent presentations on Integrated Pest Management (“IPM”) know he is a respected authority in the field of Christmas Tree grower IPM.

Rich demonstrated a pesticide delivery technique he is in the early stages of exploring that would dramatically reduce the time, energy and cost to treat trees for elongate hemlock scale and cryptomeria scale. Rich demonstrated his technique using a 3-gallon Solo hand-pump backpack sprayer with a Safari 20SG mixture and sprayed the trunk of each tree near the ground (8-12” band) as he walked up and down the rows. Application was quick and efficient. He barely slowed to spray each tree, walking down each row so that both sides of the trees were sprayed. Two things occur using this method that ensures the mixture is absorbed into the tree. Either it is absorbed directly by the bark on contact, or (especially in the case of rain) it is washed into the ground where it is absorbed by the tree through the roots. Either method appears to be equally effective at this point in Rich’s trials, although the bark absorption method has shown to be quicker. The pesticide is then delivered to the needles internally through the trees absorption. (Think of it like getting an inoculation injection.)

In early tests Rich has found that this delivery method actually works better than spraying treatment directly onto the needles for a couple reasons; first, because scales live part of their life under a hard shell and can only be killed when they emerge, timing is critical with full tree spraying treatments such as horticultural oils. Not so with this treatment as the Safari has a lengthy residual effect, so timing is not critical. (Rich sprays late May to early June.) Secondly, spraying oils can be “hit or miss” depending on method of application, wind conditions, rain, etc. No so with this method. Since the Safari is absorbed into the trees nutrient delivery system, the pesticide is delivered to the entire tree. Finally, the technique automatically delivers the appropriate dosage, since larger trees have larger trunks, therefore will absorb more, and vice versa for smaller trees. But the best parts from my perspective? No heavy equipment, no overspray, no concerns about impending rain washing the spray off the trees, no concerns about critical timing of the application and no need to wear an uncomfortable respirator. The challenge is if the trees have large whorls on the ground, or if competing vegetation is present (grass and weeds) it can be more difficult to get the sprayer wand close enough to the trunk for suitable application.

A couple technical points of note: Rich has found for ideal application you want the sprayer to be delivering the pesticide mixture at a constant 21PSI. Each tree should get approximately 1 ounce of the Safari 20SG mixture. (This translates to approximately 0.67 lbs of Safari 20SG per acre, or 3.5 oz (100grams) of product per 3 gallon tank, and 9 gallons of finished spray per acre.) In order to insure the 21PSI you can purchase a “CF Valve.” (CF stands for “Constant Flow”) This will insure the sprayer maintains the 21PSI no matter how much you pump up the tank pressure. Rich also suggested a 6502 or 6503 – E nozzle (flat fan) for the sprayer. This flat fan nozzle insures the band of chemical applied to the tree trunk is the appropriate size. The nozzle should be positioned so the spray band is vertical (because hopefully your trees are as well….)
I was able to find the necessary sprayer parts at both Gempler’s and Ben Meadows. The CF valve is about $19 and spray tips are between $4-$6 each, but cheaper if you buy a pack with several tips. Both suppliers have websites and toll free numbers.

DISCLAIMER: As Rich pointed out during the demonstration, while he has had excellent results with this treatment, the trial has only lasted one year thus far. He felt that a minimum of two years performance would need to be analyzed before he could declare the application method a complete success. So we have something to look forward to at the 2010 meeting!

After the meeting we enjoyed a wonderful lunch of meatball sandwiches and baked beans in David’s onsite retail space. Thanks again to Rich for his excellent presentation as well as to David and his great staff for accommodating us! And thanks to Karen Menezes and Catherine Watne for providing the food! (See our Blog for photos from the meeting!)

And finally;

RICTGA Business:
As noted in the 3-2009 newsletter, RICTGA plans to continue to operate in much the same way as previously, however there are some activities that consume time and money that membership has decided are not worthwhile. Our #1 goal is to make RICTGA as useful and unburdensome to members as possible. To recap our focus;

Ø Budget - We have prioritized those activities/services that members have indicated are of interest. 2009 dues remained $40, however this amount will be revisited by year-end to determine if it is sufficient to cover costs of maintaining all of the benefits of interest to membership. Those include the following:
o Website - RICTGA will continue maintain a website hosted by Mouseworks. Since we pay Mouseworks a fee to make updates to the site we plan to keep those to a minimum. Anyone wishing to update their farm page please send those to me by the end of October so I can forward them as a package to Mouseworks. In order to have more flexibility in what we post online and how we use it, Mouseworks suggested we start a RICTGA “Blog” as detailed above. Don’t forget to log on and become a “follower!”
o Magazine – RICTGA members currently receive “Christmas Tree Grower” magazine quarterly as a benefit of membership. There are mixed feelings about the importance of this benefit vs. its cost. We will need to closely analyze this in light of our budget for 2010. Members with strong feelings one way or the other are urged to contact me. If we do eliminate it as a benefit, members can subscribe directly. Subscriptions are currently $25/yr. for the quarterly magazine.
o Newsletter – Members will continue to receive a Newsletter not less than 2x yearly. Historically the cost for printing and postage (including meeting & membership notices) has been approximately $300 yearly. Electronic communication would save dollars. If you have an e-mail address please send it to me at We will continue to send notices/newsletters both electronically and via snail mail, but if we need to cut our budget further in the future and sufficient members have Internet access this is one area we may explore.

Ø Membership – As of this printing we have 48 paid “Full” members and 10 “Affiliate” members. There is some thought that it makes sense to eliminate the “Affiliate” membership category and have a standard “farm” membership for 2010. We will take this up at our next Board meeting.
Previously membership dues were mailed in December of each year and were payable by March 1. For 2010 we are going to wait to mail membership notices in January after the selling season has settled down.

Ø Meetings - RICTGA will plan to hold an annual meeting in the fall of each year, a dinner in February/March, and a summer field meeting. We will continue to endeavor to have guest speakers at the field meetings to facilitate Pesticide License continuing education credits. We did not have a January meeting this year however we did have a dinner in March where we took care of January business (elections.) We also had a summer field meeting at David Henry’s farm in June. We will try to hold a meeting before year-end to discuss goals for 2010.

Ø Other
o As a result of member disinterest, RICTGA will not attend New England Christmas Tree Alliance meetings, unless a member steps forward and expresses an interest in attending. We will determine the utility of continuing to pay dues as a member.
o As a result of member disinterest, RICTGA will not participate in any activities as an organization such as Trees for Troops, RI Statehouse Trees, Christmas Tree Festival, Big E Fair, etc. Information regarding these and other activities will be disseminated to Membership by the Board either through Newsletter or electronically, and individual members can decide to participate or not on their own, but RICTGA will not participate as an organization.
o RICTGA will consider participation in the above as well as other activities submitted by Members on a case-by-case basis. Our goal is not to minimize RICTGA’s public presence as an organization, just to avoid taking on activities that do not interest or benefit the members as evidenced by lack of volunteer participation.
o Finally, please feel free to contact me with any suggestions, questions, advice, rumors, gossip, criticism or whatever else you wish to share. You can reach me by phone at 624-2522 or by e-mail at You can also use the address as well, however that is only checked weekly.

What’s next:
I would like to have a Board meeting late October or November to plan 2010. It seems to make more sense than a Jan/Feb meeting, especially from a budgeting standpoint. You will be notified at least 3 weeks prior as to date, time and location.
We will also plan a spring dinner/election at that time.

Thanks again to everyone for your continued support of RICTGA, and best wishes to everyone for safe and prosperous Christmas season!


Eric Watne