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How Operation Hurdle is protecting Irish Xmas tree growers

Kavanagh Christmas Trees. Photo: Christy Kavanagh.

Kavanagh Christmas Trees has felt first-hand the damage caused by thieves during this crucial period. Now with the re-launch of Operation Hurdle the level of theft they suffer is effectively zero.



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6 December 2017

It is the Christmas season and as retailers put the finishing touches on their Christmas displays in-store, and growers put in place winter crop protection; there is one specific group of nursery growers who are entering their busy season – Christmas tree growers.

Christmas tree growers are facing their busiest time of the year for selling and exporting their product, but to get to this stage, you have to have a crop to sell.

Christmas trees ready for delivery. Photo: Christy Kavanagh.

Christmas trees ready for delivery. Photo: Christy Kavanagh.

Constant threats from thieves and criminals who make large amounts of money from selling on stolen Christmas trees have, in the past, plagued Christmas tree growers throughout Ireland; particularly those like Christy Kavanagh, owner of Kavanagh Christmas trees, whose isolated farm was once the victim of a robbery of 800 trees, amounting to approximately €40,000 in lost revenue.

However, now with the launch of the Gardaí and Air Corps led “Operation Hurdle”, the loss of revenue on Kavanagh’s farm due to robberies has dropped to practically zero.

Operation Hurdle will see an increase in Garda presence around Co Wicklow – which has the highest concentration of Christmas tree farms in the country – enabling the Gardaí to operate check points and question those who arouse suspicion during the day and night. The Air Corps will also be drafted in to operate air-patrols over the county, providing an extra angle to the operation.

Operation Hurdle’s impact on Kavanagh Christmas Trees

Speaking with, Kavanagh said: “Since the Gardaí launched Operation Hurdle, the level of theft is down to zero. But there are others factors that contribute to that; several growers, including ourselves, would have private security, light sensors, as well as the Gardaí to protect our Christmas trees.”

The expansive Kavanagh Christmas trees farm. Photo: Christy Kavanagh.

The expansive Kavanagh Christmas Trees farm. Photo: Christy Kavanagh.

These measures are all at a cost to Kavanagh but he says that it is all worth it for his peace of mind: “Whether it’s private security or the Gardaí, they both give you a lot more peace of mind. We know when we’re going to bed we will be able to get a good night’s sleep. I think, years ago when we didn’t have the protections in place, that that was a bigger cost; I used to go around half the night watching the trees – it’s easier on us mentally.

“The benefit of Operation Hurdle is wonderful to the community. It has been a real success. It isn’t just for businesses but also for the community in general – the elderly in the community in particular.

Kavanagh Christmas trees

Kavanagh Christmas Trees was established by Christy’s father in the mid-50s when Norway Spruce was the main tree grown. Christy studied commercial horticulture and in the early 1980s took over the business and looked to expand it.

Trees being prepared for delivery. Photo: Christy Kavanagh.

Trees being prepared for delivery. Photo: Christy Kavanagh.

“There was an opportunity to grow better trees and that’s what we did. We started planting Norway Spruce first and then we developed Noble Fir, Nordmann Fir, and Korean fir would be our main alternative.”

Kavanagh Christmas Trees have 10,000 trees per annum to bring to the market. They find the export market is a strong route for their Christmas trees, as Irish Christmas trees are regarded as the highest quality Christmas trees throughout Europe.

“So far this year we’ve exported some trees to Belgium, Northern Ireland, and throughout the European Market.” said Kavanagh.

Kavanagh Christmas Trees operate on a trade and retail basis, supplying all of the listed species of trees to other countries, horticulture businesses, and all of the Homebase and The Range stores on the island of Ireland.

They also retail at Leopardstown race course and from their very own farm shop.

You can see the species of trees Kavanagh Christmas Tress have on offer for both trade and retail on their website:

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