Today, Kovalic has about 10,000 trees and 15 different species on his seven-acre farm. He sells about 650 every year, mostly at Christmas time, but landscapers buy them too.
His interest in trees began when he was five years old.
"I always wanted to grow Christmas trees," Kovalic said. "I like trees. I don't know how else to explain it. I just like trees. I've always liked trees."
Kovalic's trees span the gamut of species, from Red Pine to Hemlocks to Norway Spruce. By far, the most popular Christmas trees are the White Pine and the Scotch Pine.
The White Pine is favored for its near-perfect Christmas tree shape and soft needles. Customers like the Scotch Pine because its branches are stiff, making it good for ornaments. The Scotch Pine is also bushy and the needles are prickly.
Then there's the Canaan Fir, which Kovalic calls the "up and coming tree," the tree that all artificial trees try to emulate. It's the tree neighbors will covet. It has a nice scent and stiff, well-spaced branches for hanging ornaments. Kovalic planted 550 last year.
"In a few years, it will be a top-seller," Kovalic said. "It is a very desirable tree."
Despite the legions of purists who swear by real trees, plastic trees have made huge inroads into the industry over the past few decades.
Kovalic said real trees commanded about 65 percent of the market just 10 years ago. Today, the share of the real tree market hovers around 30 percent.
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, about 28.6 million real trees were bought in 2006 compared to 27.8 million in 2001. Meanwhile, 9.3 million fake trees were sold across the county in 2006, up from 7.3 million in 2001.
But, the association is predicting that interest in real trees will increase this year. Much of that shift is attributed to younger customers returning to the traditional tree and growing health and environmental awareness. Many artificial trees have become associated with lead dust and PVC. Conversely, about 93 percent of all real trees get recycled each year, the association says.
Kovalic has also seen the local market shift back toward real trees recently.
"Most of the people that like trees were brought up with live Christmas trees," he said. "I have had this year, several people that told me they threw away their fake tree, and they wanted a live tree."
Matthew and Vicki Hewitt of Paris have been buying trees from Kovalic for five years, and brought their 6-year-old son Jason to the farm on Thursday.
Their secret to buying a great tree is finding balance between soft needles for the children and strong branches for the ornaments.
"It's got that great smell," Matthew said. "It just makes it feel real seasonal, and it's just festive. It's wonderful."
For Don Danko of Madison County, the fun of a real Christmas tree is getting out in nature with his family.
"In my opinion, there's too many fake things around," Danko said. "We like the real thing. We're natural type people."
Kovalic lets his customers cut their own trees at any size, and prices vary according the height. Garland and wreaths are available too, and trees are also sold balled and burlapped for planting.
Kovalic is experimenting with several new species of trees this year such as the Korean Fir, the Russian Fir, the Turkey Fir and the USA or Noble Fir, which all grow on the same parallel of latitude as Winchester. So far, his experiment has been successful, expect for the Noble Fir, which has had a mortality rate of 74 percent.
Those trees should be matured in about six or seven years. For now, the White and Scotch pines are still the favorites.
"Lets face it, there's nothing like a real tree," said Kovalic.
For more information on Kovalic and his Christmas tree farm, call (859) 744-2930.