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December 16, 2012

Buy a locally grown Christmas tree

As far as I’m concerned, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a real tree. And I’m certainly not alone in that opinion. Real Christmas trees have a stately presence and a rich, fragrant aroma that awakens the senses, brings the forest into the home and warmly welcomes everyone who enters.

A beautifully decorated Christmas tree isn’t just a tradition, it’s one of the most beloved symbols of the holiday season. Families unite to set up and decorate the tree, anxiously anticipating Christmas morning, when they will gather around it once again to celebrate and open presents.

According to the most recent U.S. Census of Agriculture (2007), there are 17,367 Christmas tree farms in the United States, growing trees on 343,374 acres of land nationwide and employing more than 100,000 people full or part time. More than 12,000 of those growers operate “cut your own” farms. About 15 percent of those growers (1,154) are in New York, using 20,267 acres across the state.

The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) represents America’s Christmas tree professionals and promotes the use of real Christmas trees. According to NCTA statistics, Americans purchased 30.8 million real Christmas trees in 2011 compared to 27 million in 2010. Eighty-four percent of those were purchased already cut and 16 percent were chosen and harvested by the customer at “cut your own” farms. 

Thirty-one percent of already cut trees (9,548,000) were purchased at Christmas tree farms, 15 percent (4,620,000) were bought at nursery and garden centers, 16 percent (4,928,000) at big box stores like Wal-Mart and 14 percent (4,312,000) at retail lots. Thirteen percent of pre-cut trees (4,004,000) were obtained from non-profit groups such as 4-H, scouting organizations, churches etc., and 11 percent (3,388,000) came from other locations. The industry realized a $1.07 billion retail market.

In 1966, the NCTA began its tradition of having the Association Grand Champion grower present a Christmas tree to America’s First Lady for display in the Blue Room of the White House. That year, Howard Pierce of Black River Falls, Wisc., presented a tree to President Lyndon Johnson and First Lady Claudia Taylor (Lady Bird) Johnson.

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