Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Well, the Trees for Troops program did not get the Pepsi Refresh grant in September, but it did make the top 100, so it rolls over into the October contest. Woohoo! That means you need to VOTE EVERY DAY the rest of the month.

Interesting news story this week about struggling plastic tree factories in China. Apparently they are struggling partly because they don’t want to pay their workers.

Little Cheer in China's Factories

In late summer, production lines across China's "world factory" usually crank up to meet a surge in Christmas orders. Activity this year, however, has been relatively modest on weak Western demand.

"The U.S. market has not come back and the European market is dropping," said Leona Lam, CEO of the toymaker firm Leconcepts, which does around $250 million of business annually. "I don't see a good Christmas this year for factories."

Lai Xiao Wen, who runs a 50-worker plastic Christmas tree plant, sees bleak times ahead as production costs and wages rise. "It's very tough," said Lai. "I want to change businesses."
Another maker of Christmas trees in Guangzhou noted a 30% rise in orders, but said it was proving tough to find skilled workers to manufacture more trees. "The only way to find more workers is to pay them a lot more," said Frank Shang of Pretty Xmas Tree Manufacturing, producer of 400,000 trees a year. "But we can't afford that."

A recent survey of 60 manufacturers by the Federation of Hong Kong Industries showed a third saying they could only withstand a wage increase of 5%. Wages have doubled in some places after minimum wage increases, spreading labor shortages and a spate of strikes at multinationals like Honda.
Source: Reuters

On a totally unrelated note, we got an email from Lesle about the essay contest (which unfortunately we no longer have). She writes:

My daughter is a senior in high school and was given the assignment from her English teacher to write an essay for a scholarship. She searched on line and found your contest. After turning in the assignment we learned you no longer offer this scholarship. As a parent who has always tried to install the holiday spirit I was thrilled to read her essay. I hope you can share it with others and it will inspire them to also create special family memories.

OK, I’m happy to share this essay written by Allise. Read it and find joy.

My whole childhood revolved around one holiday. Christmas is my mother's world, her cherished celebration, her admitted obsession, and her joyous occasion. December 25th and the surrounding weeks have always been special to me: a time for family, fun, and faith. What symbol is better for Christmas than a marvelously decorated natural fir tree sitting in the living room?

During the first week ofDecember in 1986, my parents picked out, cut down, and brought home a beautiful tree. The next day, my mother went into labor and gave birth to my older brother, Daniel. From that year, until 2005 our family cut down our own Douglas fir tree. A family tradition that continued for 20 years has always been a special trip to the Christmas tree farm in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. After buying a tree my mother immediately makes sure the entire family takes part in finding their ornaments and placing them on the tree.

Each Christmas, she buys us a special ornament to represent what we have done throughout the past year. A car for Daniel's 16th birthday, a glass blown cat for my first pet. Our family tree sits proudly in the living room. My collection of porcelain Barbies mingle with the superstitious German pickle. While Noah's ark rests next to a baby bootie from 1993. The lights illuminate the living room from dusk till dawn, a source of light both literally and in a figurative sense. The tree is a nightlight during midnight snacks and a lovely compliment to the glow of candles as we reminisce of Christmas' past after a traditional meal with family.

In my household, Christmas has always been a month long celebration as a time to enjoy the Christian faith which moves my soul. Our family Christmas tree has always reminded me ofthe peace that comforts me in times oftrouble, the hope I will always have in people, and the joy that comes with everlasting life through my faith in Jesus Christ. I have always loved coming home to see the tree glimmering in the living room.

A Christmas tree is more than a decoration to me. Yes, it is a place to stow presents until Christmas Eve, and yes, it is a lovely clubhouse for my pet cat, but it is so much more than that. It is a symbol of memories, family, and faith. Nothing could replace my childhood memories of searching out the perfect real tree.

Very nice Allise. You’ve inspired me. I hope you keep that spirit alive throughout your life and continue to share it with others.

On another totally unrelated note, someone emailed me this newspaper clipping. It’s a sad and funny, but really sad, illustration of just how disconnected some people are from agriculture. It doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas Trees, but it illustrates the point.

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