This year’s Grand Champions are father and son Russell (Rusty) and Beau Estes of Peak Farms in Jefferson, N.C. The Estes family traveled to Washington to present the tree, an 18.5 foot Fraser Fir, to the President and First Lady on Nov. 23, one day after Thanksgiving. The Estes family previously won the honor of sending a tree to the White House in 2008.
Christmas trees may be seasonal, but Christmas-tree production, which integrates elements of both agricultural production and forestry, certainly is not. Year-round management and maintenance are required. However, Christmas trees can be produced on land that would be only marginally productive for most agriculture, and Christmas-tree production requires less ground cover disturbance than that needed with many agricultural crops. Christmas-tree rotations are much shorter than timber rotations and Christmas trees can be grown economically on small acreage, as well, whereas agricultural crops and timber production often requires large acreage for economical management.
Christmas-tree production is generally thought of as environmentally friendly, too. The trees are a renewable resource. Harvested trees are replaced with seedlings. In fact, to replace harvested crops and meet future demand, North American Christmas-tree farmers plant one to three seedlings for every Christmas tree harvested. And because Christmas trees are 100 percent biodegradable, they are often recycled into mulch, to be used in gardening or to prevent soil erosion.
Very few consumers know or even consider where their trees come from, and even fewer realize the challenges faced by Christmas-tree producers. Large investments, long-term commitment and lots of work are required.
There are the production costs, which include the price of seedlings and machinery such as tractors, mowers, tillers, sprayers and shearing tools. Then there’s the cost of fertilizers, pesticides and other miscellaneous items such as signs, gates and flagging.