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Feature on Scothorn Farms Ltd.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Originally published May 01, 2014

Scothorn Farms Ltd. is a leading producer of Christmas trees in Nova Scotia. NSBI spoke with the company about the firm's success and its future in the province.

Nova Scotia’s climate is ideal for raising healthy crops and specializing in a variety of plants that thrive in this region. Scothorn Farms is one such specialty business that focuses on raising the heartiest, most handsome Christmas and conifer trees around. As the premier U-pick Christmas tree farm in the province, Scothorn’s Hant County location produces around 140,000 trees a year on its 140 acres, with new plantings every spring to be ready for the next year.

Scothorn spoke with NSBI about what makes this farm business such a good fit for Nova Scotia and how the business sees its future progressing in the area.

Q: How has your success in Nova Scotia gone, and why did you set up business here?

A: The Scothorn family has lived and been involved in farming in Nova Scotia for many generations. We were looking for a sustainable product to generate income as an add-on to our dairy and (at the time) farm machinery business. Balsam Fir is a natural growth product that was growing naturally on our land base so we took what we had and built on it. We had the land base to start the business and people available – employees that would otherwise be laid off when cropping was over or farm machinery repair, sales etc. were slow. We had equipment (tractors) not being used at the Christmas harvest time. It made sense.

To add to our success we started networking, using resources like DNR, joining provincial, Canadian and American associations and training our staff on the techniques to produce an award winning and marketable tree. Some of our employees even became involved in setting standards through these organizations.

Q: What advice would you give to other Nova Scotia companies looking outside of the borders for growth?

A: We recommend that anyone looking to get into this business get involved in networking as well as producing a top quality product. It is a large industry for Nova Scotia with a small close community of wholesalers. Be aware of the markets and the rules and regulations of each country you are trying to export to. Nova Scotia trees are not permitted into some countries because of their strict regulations on importing.

Q: What was your biggest learning or a-ha moment?

A: That we have to be attending association meetings, and using technology to the fullest as well as managing our crop so we have enough trees to fulfill our orders.

Q: What does being recognized by your local business community mean to your business and your employees?

A: Being recognized by our local community is a great high for all involved in this aspect of our business. As well as exporting we wholesale to the local markets and run a u-pick lot. Our area in Nova Scotia is a growing community with residents moving in and out.

We always struggle to get the local market informed that we are here in their community. Hopefully with the announcement that we have been given this award more people are now aware. It makes Nova Scotians aware of the diversity of exporters in the province and how important agriculture is to the local and provincial economy.

Q: What do you consider will be key to your success going forward?

A: Our key to our success in the future will be planning and marketing.

Scothorn Farm is open throughout the year with peak season for Christmas trees starting in November and ending Dec. 23. These trees are exported across the Western hemisphere, making Scothorn a solid international presence and a regional favourite.

In 2013, this growing business was named Exporter of the Year by the East Hants and District Chamber of Commerce. In addition to this accomplishment, Scothorn Farms received a 2014 Nova Scotia Export Achievement Award to recognize their achievements.

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