Small Talk with Christy Kavanagh of Kavanagh Christmas Trees
This week Growtrade.ie talks to Christy about his background in horticulture, winning the supreme champion tree of the Irish Christmas Tree Growers and current challenges in the industry
20 December 2023
At Growtrade, we’re running an interview series titled ‘Small Talk’, where we talk to various influential members of Ireland’s horticulture trade. This week’s conversation is with Christy Kavanagh of Kavanagh Christmas Trees in Co. Wicklow.
How did you get your start in horticulture?
I got my start in horticulture while working alongside my father, Tommy, as a teenager producing potatoes, cabbages and Christmas trees. In 1979 I won a scholarship to Warrenstown College, where I studied commercial horticulture for two years.
What was one of the proudest moments in your career to date?
The proudest moment of my career to date has to be in 2021, when I won the supreme champion tree of the Irish Christmas Tree Growers annual competition. I also won for the first time ever in all three of the categories: 1st in Noble Fir, 1st in Nordmann Fir and 1st in alternative species (for Korean Fir). As a result of my winnings, our family got to present the president, Michael D Higgins, with a Christmas tree in Aras an Uachtarain.
What was one of the greatest challenges you’ve faced in your career to date?
One of the greatest challenges that I’ve faced in my career is getting land to rent to produce Christmas trees.
Give us an example of a recent success you had in your work:
A recent success I’ve had is growing the business from harvesting 500 trees to 20,000 trees annually.
What are the greatest challenges facing the industry today?
The greatest challenge facing the industry today is the lack of young growers. The average age of growers is approximately 60 years of age.
What are the greatest opportunities facing the industry today?
Young, progressive farmers have a unique opportunity to produce several species of Christmas trees for both the home and export markets, where there is an increasing demand.
What advice would you give to someone just starting their career in horticulture?
I would advise someone starting off their career in horticulture to travel to Holland (which is the same size as Munster) and the experience will open their eyes. The Dutch can produce all kinds of horticultural products and distribute them world-wide!
What are your hopes for the future of Irish horticulture?
I would hope farmers would forget the saying “we always did it that way” and consider ‘change’, i.e: change of land use, change the way they look at opportunities and change the family farm to agri-tainment.
Small Talk is produced in association with Gardenworld Nurseries – passionate about plants. For more visit gardenworld.ie