Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Factory or Farm?

So you often read comments here or on the NCTA site saying something like "you either have a real tree grown on a farm or a plastic decoration made in a factory" ...something like that.

Factory vs farm.

Pretty clear choice really.

So this article came out describing a factory in Thailand that makes plastic tree decorations out of raw materials made in China and even it's having a hard time competing again factories in China making the same products.

I'm sure David Addington at the Heritage Foundation would be proud. According to him, real Christmas trees grown here by American farm families don't have an image problem and don't need to do any marketing to compete with fake trees made in China.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Americana History

Quick post...

Someone sent this link to us. It has some awesome old photos of shop fronts during Christmas time and old family photos with Christmas trees during the 20s. Check it out: http://www.papatedsplace.com/Christmas1920s.html

I found this awesome commentary article by Brad Stanhope. The comments are particularly amusing.http://bit.ly/skfTfB

Airports can be...well, to be honest, somewhat drab and depressing. But sometimes, when they are decked out in Christmas decor they can be uplifting. Earlier this month I had to travel to a meeting and connecting through O'Hare airport in Chicago I was impressed with the terminal for K and H concourses. I actually didn't mind connecting through O'Hare that day. The photo is from my phone so it's not the best but I wanted to share anyway. Talk about "decking the halls"!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Santa rides a bike?

This is the funniest thing I’ve read all year: "'People just aren't expecting Santa Claus on a bike, to show up with a boombox playing Christmas tunes, with a Christmas tree on the back and a pulled-pork sandwich in his hand,' said Toraldo.”

Well, um…no I guess they wouldn’t expect that. Check out this article about a guy who delivers a Christmas tree and a pulled pork sandwich on a bicycle. I don't make this stuff up people.

In other news, congrats to the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and FedEx for delivering the 100,000th free farm-grown Christmas tree to a military family this year through the Trees for Troops program.

On a less happy note, stories like this just burn me up (no pun intended). So in an all-too-common scenario, a local TV news station is getting a firefighter to light a Christmas tree on fire so they can do a "fire officials warn about the dangers of Christmas tree fires ..." blah blah blah. This guy had to use 2 road flares to get any kind of burning going, and then says "we're not trying to scare people away from getting a tree ..." Well, duh ... THAT'S EXACTLY what you are accomplishing when you do that!

So what's the message then? ... don't bring 2 lit road flares into your home??!!

GRRRR...that makes me angry! I wonder if David Addington at the Heritage Foundation still thinks Christmas trees "don't have an image problem." I was talking about him with a reporter at the Wall Street Journal yesterday who was writing about the Christmas tree industry and I said "you should call him up and ask him what kind of Christmas tree is displayed inside his home." That would be interesting to know. I bet he has a fake tree.

Yeah, and misinformation about Christmas trees is not a new phenomenon that tree farmers have to deal with. It's been going on for years, ever since factories started making big green toilet bowl brushes and calling them "Christmas trees." Check out this story of a promotional effort to promote fresh, farm-grown Christmas trees from 1969 ... make sure and play the song and listen to the lyrics, it's hilarious.

A couple interesting questions this week:

On a split trunk...
From: Jeffrey
Sent: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 12:02 PM
To: info
Subject: Is this tree damaged?

We purchased a Fraser Fir 2 nights ago and had the nursery fresh cut it for us. We put it into a tree stand and filled the reservoir with water. Since then, I've noticed the tree has barely absorbed any of the water. One thing - I found that the tree has a split in the trunk that rises from the bottom to more than half way up. Is this a fatal flaw and should I have it replaced, or am I barking up the wrong tree so to speak?

We've purchased Frasers for years from the same nursery and have not deviated from our normally successful tree standards.

It does not affect the ability of the tree to take up water through a fresh cut. The reason for the trunk to split is the field conditions prior to harvest. You did everything right. I would monitor the water level for the next few days closely. It can take a while for the tree to start moving water up its system. I put my tree up this past Friday evening and it didn't start taking up water until last night.

From: g_m_reiland@
Sent: Sunday, December 11, 2011 5:31 PM
Subject: tree stand
I have a quick question and was hoping to get information from the experts. I just purchased a fraser fir and brought it in the house this morning. It is in the stand and is sitting pretty flush to the bottom. I told my husband we need to raise it up a bit so water can flow under and he said it's unnecessary and that it's supposed to sit flush so that the tree is more secure. What is your opinion?

While it's best to have the entire surface area of the cut tree trunk wet at all times, I don't think you can create a water-tight seal by having the cut surface flat in the bottom of the stand. Water is absorbed on a molecular level by the plant tissue and it most likely will be able to do so in this case. Most tree stands do have some kind of prong or spike in the bottom to help with both of your points, exposure to water and stability.

From: Michael
Sent: Saturday, December 10, 2011 11:20 PM
Subject: Tallest Christmas Tree Question
Hello. I've been watching a Christmas tree special on television, and have learned that the tallest Christmas tree in a private residence is at the Vanderbilt home, and is "three stories high." Next year, I'd like to try to beat that in my home. Do you have any information on the tallest Christmas tree ever displayed in a private residence? I'm pretty certain I could erect a tree well over 25 feet in my home, which is a concrete monolithic dome home in Las Vegas.If you can come up with any information or links I can research, I would appreciate it!

Sorry Michael, that's not something we would be able to verify or track in any way. In other words, I have no idea how they can prove the "three stories high" tree you saw on the special is indeed the tallest?

Hey check out my tree I put up and decorated this past Friday! Isn't she a beee-yoot?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Interaction and endorsement

I got a great email from Alison this week, providing some feedback about our web site and the way we provide information about Christmas Trees. Here's our interaction:

Hi Alison. Interesting points, thanks for writing in… but missing key facts /considerations. Elaborations below in blue to specific points….

From: Alison
Sent: Tuesday, December 06, 2011 9:50 PM
To: info
Subject: Hi

Just was looking through all your arguments about real vs. fake trees. You might want to at least be a bit more honest,

-- there’s nothing on the site that isn’t factual or sourced / linked if it’s opinion …can’t be much more honest than that

and a little less obvious about which one you’re pushing.
-- really? You think we should be less obvious? I think being pretty up-front and obvious about what our association stands for and believes in is the right way to go…subterfuge or subtlety would not serve our purposes I feel.

Maybe at least throw in the facts that real trees take a lot of water,
-- so? …so do house plants and pets and people ….so what? What’s the point?

and a whole bunch of fuel to truck the trees to their final resting place.
-- not necessarily. Some people buy a tree at a local farm, and many people in the U.S. and Canada live near areas where Christmas trees are grown. Besides, if you chastised people every time they purchased an agricultural product that had to be hauled to them, well, you would be chastising pretty much every person that eats bananas north of Mexico, every person who eats broccoli south of roughly the 35th parallel, etc. Personally, I’m glad I live in a place where I can buy agricultural products from all over.

Also that it totally depends on how long people keep their fake trees. That in itself changes everything.
-- no it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter how long you keep a fake tree, it will eventually end up in a landfill where it will NEVER decompose. 10 years? 20 years? 50 years? 100 years? The Earth will be here a lot longer than you or I and it will have to deal with all the non-biodegradable products we keep manufacturing, like artificial Christmas trees, instead of a the real thing, planted and grown on a farm, replaced by another seedling, then decomposed back into natural elements as all plants are.

Just thought you should know that you might be banking on human stupidity a bit too much,
-- I feel just the opposite Alison. I’m banking on people being smart enough to separate myths and misperceptions from facts.

but then again you might get lucky. Hope you guys make tons of money this year, enjoy mine, and spend it on coming up with more witty Christmas tree propaganda. Alison

Well, at least she thinks I'm witty.

So what do you think? Tell us if you feel as Alison does that we aren't honest on our website or that we should be less obvious in our attempt to convince people who display a Christmas tree to use a real one grown on a farm and to stop buying more plastic and metal fake trees.

Oh, one more quick thing this morning. I noticed the fake tree people again trying to tout an "environmental study" saying a fake tree was better for the environment ... when are they going to give this up? What do the real environmentalists say? Check for yourself, you can't get more "tree hugger-y" than the American Forests organization: http://bit.ly/vUJQTn

Sunday, December 4, 2011

sneaky snake

ha....thought this was funny. If you get a fake tree out of storage, check for snakes when you set it up.


Funny (and disturbing) question:

From: Martha
Sent: Monday, December 05, 2011 7:19 AM
Subject: Very Strange Tree Question

Hi Rick~
I have been searching all over the internet this morning about something the man who helped me purchase a Christmas tree at Home Depot told me last night. He said that many of the trees they get are cut months in advance, are bundled and then submerged in lakes where they freeze and are taken out when ready to be shipped. He said many of the trees they get are full of ice and debris from the lakes...cans, bags, even fish skeletons! I had never heard of this and was fascinated. Is this true? Thanks!

That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. Can you imagine how much extra work and equipment it would take to pull off such a thing? And I can’t even imagine how awful a tree would look if it went through that. Tree harvest starts in mid-November and continues until about a week before Christmas when most retail outlets want their last delivery of trees. Harvesting, baling, loading and hauling is a very efficient process and most trees get to their destination within 3 or 4 days.

From: Gretchen 
Sent: Sunday, December 04, 2011 11:53 AM
Subject: Question

My greetings to you!
I just purchased a fresh cut Christmas tree. Unfortunately, when I placed the tree in the stand, I realized the tree is too fresh. Despite tighten the tree stand screws, the tree is ‘slipping’ out of place. In double checking what could be causing the difficulty, I concluded that it is not the stand itself, the trunk size, or not having tightened the screws. Instead, It seems, the tree is still to “wet” from sap?

Is there way to “dry” the tree or do you have an alternate solution?

Well, you could leave it out of water for a few weeks, but that’s a bad idea. The 4 screw type stands really should have a plastic/rubber tip on the end of the screws so they don’t penetrate the bark as much.  There are other styles of stand beside the 4 screw if you want to look into that, but if not, I would recommend tightening the screws even more if you need to for the tree to be more stable.  Penetrating the bark with those small screws won’t hurt the tree or really inhibit its ability to absorb water.

From: joel
Sent: Sunday, December 04, 2011 7:19 AM
Subject: Christmas Tree misting question...

I hope that subject line makes it through your spam filters...

My wife and I just bought a 7ft Fraser fir last night, and I'm trying to do everything I can to keep it alive for as long as possible.  My wife has decided that if we can't keep this one alive 'til Christmas, then we're going to plastic next year, and I REALLY don't want to have a plastic Christmas Tree.  I think you're probably on my side on that one.

Anyhow, the clerk at the tree place told me that Frasers (maybe all evergreens? Dunno.) take in enough water through the needles and bark that regularly misting them can help to keep them alive for quite a bit longer.  If this is true, I'm all for spraying the thing down as much as I can.

So.  Is this actually true?  If so, to what degree (if it's only going to give me an extra 2 days, I'm not sure it's worth the effort)?  And are there any concerns beyond the obvious (making sure the lights are off and will be off until the water is either absorbed or evaporated, being careful of drenching the presents and ornaments that water may damage, etc)?  Or was he just trying to help me feel better about the potential life span of my cut tree?

Please help me keep this tree alive so I can help keep a real tree in my home.  Thanks!

You guess correctly, I would never get a plastic tree.  Ask your wife is she makes you buy a plastic Christmas Tree, then is it OK to also buy some plastic flowers and just give those to her every Valentines Day.

OK, if I come across as perturbed, it's not directed at you at all.  Stories like yours make me frustrated that people in the industry, for which I work, are sometimes our own worst enemy.  That guy at the tree place is completely wrong.  Spraying water on a tree will do NOTHING to improve moisture level or needle retention, it will simply get your tree and anything under it wet.  Trees don't absorb water in that way.  It will absorb water, at a molecular level, through the stem (trunk) of the plant and move moisture up and out the branches and foliage as it evaporates OUT OF the foliage.  It doesn't work in reverse.

If you got the trunk in water within 3 to 6 hours of a fresh cut off the bottom, then that's what you should do.  Keep the stand filled with water so the cut surface is not exposed to air.
Full care tips page http://www.christmastree.org/care.cfm

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hey tree questions ....woo-hoo!

Oh goodness ... some people get all worked up over the slightest things. Someone with Fox News called me today and said she was doing a story on the "controversy about what to call a Christmas Tree." Apparently there's a big hub-bub in Rhode Island (and a few other states) about this.

I recalled that several years back we asked something about that on our annual consumer poll to gauge just how much of a controversy it is. The question appeared on our Jan. 2006 poll (that would be the 2005 season to us). It was:

There recently has been much talk about how to refer to a Christmas tree. Some people say "Christmas Tree" is appropriate while others think that "Holiday Tree" is the right way to talk about the trees. In your own opinion, which name do you think is more appropriate to use?

97% answered “Christmas Tree”
3% answered “Holiday Tree”

Yeah, now I remember … at that point I was thinking “so what’s the controversy?” Oh well, as long as people buy a real one grown on a farm and not a fake, plastic one made in a factory, that's the important thing.

Here are some of the common questions coming in this week now that many people already got their tree for this year.

From: Daisy
Sent: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 10:28 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree Question

Hi, I’m hoping you can help me. We purchased a fresh 7’ Christmas Tree 2 days ago. The sellers claimed the tree was just cut the day before. Once we got home, we cut off 3” from the bottom, placed it in the stand, and immediately filled it with water. In past years, I recall a tree drinking A LOT during the first week where I need to fill the stand twice/day before the water gets too low. However, with this tree, it’s not drinking much water. It has only been going down an inch/day.

Was this tree cut far more than 2 days before we purchased it? I’m concerned it’ll completely dry out before Christmas. Before I decorate the tree, should we throw this one out and get another one?

Even if the tree was harvested more than 2 days ago, it has been in a state of dormancy since late summer / early fall. The rate of water absorption will vary throughout the time it is displayed. Some days it will absorb a lot, some days not so much. This is normal. It can take some time for the plant to come out of a state of dormancy. Just keep the stand filled with water because it can absorb A LOT of water in a short period of time once it starts.

From: Harlan
Sent: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 11:39 AM
Subject: Christmas tree question

We bought an 8 foot Fraser Fur, that unfortunately, required cutting off several large branches so it would fit in the stand, which, made the tree somewhat sparse on the bottom. I would like to drill a few small holes in the trunk, above the stand, to fill in the bottom of the tree, with the branches I previously cut off. Is that OK to do? I will not drill the holes deep enough to weaken the trunk. The branches have been sitting in water. Will they last through Christmas or dry out too fast?

Think of the tree branches in the same way as cut flowers. The longer the stem of the plant is out of water, the quicker it will dry out.

From: Jon
Sent: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 8:55 PM
Subject: Cut tree displayed outside in cold weather

Our house is small. We would like to put a real tree out side on our front porch. We live in Maine and would purchase the tree on Saturday, December 10th, and would like to display it until January 2nd. It will be below freezing much of the time. What recommendations do you have for keeping a cut tree from drying out in this situation?

I'd recommend displaying the tree in a water holding stand, even if it's very cold outside. If the water freezes in the stand, that won't hurt the tree, and it will have water available if it does get warm enough to absorb some.

Keep the questions coming!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Email Overload

Actual email from this week:

From: Daniel
Sent: November 13, 2011 7:41 AM
Subject: Fee

Just watching the news where they say there would be NO fee for a Christmas tree at least for this year. I do think it is a religious discrimination.

Will there be a fee for raising goats or sheep that is used in the Islam religion?
Will there be a fee on the turkeys that are raised for Thanksgiving?

Wow, I couldn't even formulate a response to that one. Each year, there are only a handful of emails I just simply don't answer - and this was the first of 2011.

This whole Christmas Tree tax thing has broken down into the surreal on so many fronts. All because one blogger with some kind of ulterior motive decided to call the checkoff program a tax on trees, even though it isn't. Some people just simply refuse to see the facts, even when presented with them in a clear and concise manner.

I thought of an analogy for this:

If we go to the zoo and look at a giraffe, we're both looking at the same giraffe. But then you might say, "I think that's a mule."

I would respond, "No, it's not, it's a giraffe. We're both looking right at it, and mules are different from giraffes."

But you could still say, "I don't care. I think it's a mule and I'm going to call it a mule from now on no matter what you say."

And you do just that. You tell everyone who walks by that they're looking a mule. Maybe you even stand on a fencepost and shout it as loud as you can.

Well, that doesn't magically make the giraffe a mule just because you call it that. It just makes you wrong.

But the moral of this story is that unfortunately there are a lot of people out there who just believe what they are told. And if you tell them often enough and loud enough "that's a mule," some of them will believe you, even if they're looking right at the giraffe. For this audience, I just don't think it's worth it to keep replying, "It's not a tax" ... they're never going to believe us.

And then, the majority of people renew my faith. Here's a typical exchange:

From: Will
Sent: November 9, 2011 1:17 PM
Subject: the christmas tree tax

Last night when I first read about this, I KNEW it had to be some trade group behind this ... and it turns out it was YOUR group! Gee ... I wonder how much money you gave to or promised to give to Obama for this little favor ... hmmm.

And good thing it's been 'delayed." Why does your group even exist??? You're just trying to sponge off the taxpayers.

Here was my answer:

Agricultural producers have created promotional boards like this one since 1966, and they date back to the Johnson Administration. There are more than 20 such boards in existence currently, and some well-known promotional boards have developed successful advertising and promotion campaigns, including the "Got Milk?", "Pork: The Other White Meat" and the "Incredible Edible Egg."

There are zero tax dollars involved here. USDA bills all costs associated with these promotional efforts to the industry groups that create the boards.

These promotional boards are created when the industry gathers together and decide to petition USDA to create a promotional board. USDA reviews the petition, opens it up to industry and public comment, and then creates the board if it meets certain criteria. That is what happened here.

Fresh cut Christmas Tree producers have long been concerned about losing market share to artificial tree makers and foreign imports. In response, the domestic producers decided, as an industry and as is their right, to fund a promotional effort, similar to how the dairy processors created the "Got Milk?" campaign. They want to self-assess this 15-cent fee on domestic Christmas Trees for producers who sell more than 500 trees a year.

To ensure fairness, and as required by law, the USDA works with the industry at the start of this effort to ensure that consumers or growers are not gouged and to provide ongoing oversight to ensure the program meets its stated goals.

Many producers, from dairy farmers to livestock producers to blueberry growers, have created research and promotion boards because it increases their markets and they prosper.

Will wrote back:
From: Will
Sent: November 9, 2011 4:26 PM
Subject: RE: the christmas tree tax

Thanks for the reply. And I stand corrected re this being a tax. Thanks. But ... you gotta admit ... you've gotten some bad PR on this thing. Not a great time to be raising prices, or having your group tied to Obama. Anyway, good luck. And thanks again for the reply.

FWIW, I get a fresh tree every year.

Thanks, Will. It was folks like you who kept me going the past week or so.

Hey, I've got an idea. Next week, let's start talking about trees, shall we? We're only one week away from sales season opening. Woo-hoo!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What the Checkoff Means to Me

A Guest Post from a Tree Farmer:

My husband and I have been in the Christmas Tree business since 1971, and I just wanted to take a moment to respond to some of the recent questions about the Christmas Tree checkoff. We are a small Christmas tree farm in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range. We are primarily wholesalers, but have been retailers and now also have a small Choose & Cut operation. Our soils are suited to growing Christmas trees and not much else.

A checkoff is a program where commodity groups can help themselves to better their industry. A couple of the longest running ones are cotton and beef. They formed because there were incredible challenges in their industries that no one state or company could answer. When I was in high school, Sunday nights were spent ironing clothes for the next week at school. The cotton checkoff paid for the research that made permanent press cotton fabric possible. Do you remember how cotton clothes used to fade? The Cotton Checkoff paid for the research that paid for that, too. The cotton checkoff was formed because their industry was being overwhelmed by polyester fabric that didn't fade and didn't wrinkle.

By working together, industries such as cotton could pool their resources and speak with one voice. The assessment that is made is self-imposed funding by the industry to help itself. The monies are collected, and the program is designed and run by an industry board. Taxes are monies collected by the government for use by the government. Monies collected by checkoffs go directly to the checkoff to be used for research and promotion for that industry alone.

We petitioned the USDA as is our right under the First Amendment to the Constitution. We asked them to allow us to create a program, for which they would provide oversight. The industry pays for this oversight - it is revenue neutral to the government. The government doesn't get any of the money, and there is no cost to the taxpayer.

We did not do this lightly. It is a serious thing we were asking. The oversight is a good thing. A checkoff is audited annually. The checkoff boards must set goals to be met by the program. Every 5 or so years an econometric study must be done that tells whether or not those goals are met. If those goals are not met, the program folds. The USDA makes sure that money is used for what it is supposed to be used for.

A group of us growers and importers started more than three years ago in April of 2008 to study other commodities that have tried these programs. We focused on commodities that were similar in size: blueberries, mangoes, watermelons, sorghum and several others. We facilitated sessions in the four top growing areas of the country. By now there have been at least 100 meetings across the country at state and national Christmas tree meetings discussing the checkoff.

You asked how we can guarantee that the assessment would not be passed on to the consumer. We can't guarantee that. Each grower will make that decision. We are primarily wholesalers. In 2008, I contacted all our buyers, mostly retailers, and asked them how would they feel about this kind of promotion program and the assessment. They were all supportive and excited to get the kind of help in the marketplace that the checkoff could supply. Some offered to pay the whole thing, and some offered to split the cost, should it come into being.

Farmers know dirt. We know how to grow things. But in this changing world, is it not enough to grow a great product. We have to let people know about our product. That takes time, coordination and money.

Some people have asked why we don’t just pool our resources and keep USDA out of it. In the last 20 years, there have two very strong voluntary programs initiated by the industry that raised nearly a million dollars each. We have found, as every industry we studied found, that voluntary programs have a life of about three years. The volunteers running the program and paying into the program burn out. Everyone in the industry benefits, but only a few carry the burden. These two programs had great impact on our industry's ability to promote our product. We know promotion and research work. We have to do it as an industry to survive. A checkoff is fair, equitable and can supply sustainable monies.

Betty Malone, Sunrise Tree Farm

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Don't Believe Everything You Read ...

The NCTA office has been busy this morning – even busier than usual this time of the year. In case you missed it (and at least according to Twitter, almost no one has), several news media reported that Obama had donned a Grinch outfit and swept in to ruin Christmas for everyone by instituting a Christmas Tree tax.

Raise your hand if you heard this story and worried about the effect it would have on your Christmas Tree this year … ok, you can put your hands down because we want to set the story straight. There is NO Christmas Tree tax.

Yesterday, the USDA announced a final rule for the Christmas Tree Promotion, Research and Information Order, also known as a checkoff program. Not sure what that means? Well here are the basics:

1) President Obama does not hate Christmas – this program has nothing to do with the Obama Administration. In fact, agricultural producers have created promotional boards like this one since 1966. Christmas Tree producers, as an industry, began work on a potential checkoff program, more than four years ago.

2) Christmas Trees are not the only agricultural commodity that have a promotion board. If you’ve ever heard of “Got Milk?” or “The Incredible Edible Egg,” then you’re familiar with the work of promotion boards. Many producers, from dairy farmers to livestock producers to blueberry growers, have created research boards because it increases their markets and they prosper.

3) This is not your tax dollars at work. There are zero tax dollars involved here. Some have asked about the necessity of government involvement – this is to ensure fairness and is required by law. But the industry foots the bill for all necessary costs and administration.

4) You’re not going to see higher prices when you go to purchase your tree this Christmas. This is self-funded by producers who sell or import more than 500 trees. In fact, many growers have been paying much more than 15 cents a tree in the past to voluntary marketing programs, as well as their individual marketing costs.

We know there’s a lot of misinformation floating around out there, but we want to make sure you, the consumers, have the facts. Click here for more information.

Update: Just wanted to share a couple of articles we've seen.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Welcome to Fall Funny

Question: What could possibly make a fake tree look worse than it already does?
Answer: Decorating it in a Coors Light theme.

I thought this email inquiry was funny:

From: Lindsey Lewis
Sent: Wednesday, October 05, 2011 11:30 AM
Subject: Link Placement

To Whom It May Concern:

I was wondering if I could place a link on your page to mine, www._______.com. We sell artificial Christmas trees and decorations and would like to somehow become a part of the Association with our company.

Thank you,

Here was my answer:
That would be highly inappropriate. We would never have a link to a place selling fake Christmas trees. I encourage you to read our “About” page if you don’t understand why.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Many people only see a Christmas tree farm (or for that matter even think about one) during the holiday season when they are buying a tree. Well, that's harvest season. And right now, it's planting season. You might have heard or read somewhere that an estimated 40 million new conifers are planted each year on Christmas tree farms in North America. Well that process starts as early as January in southern areas and goes right through May in some of the colder climes. At some farms, planting is done by hand with a common tool called a dibble.

At some farms, they use mechanized equipment such as these planters pulled behind a tractor.

Here's a great news clip from Northern Virginia about a tree farm doing their planting. Remember, trees are a renewable resource, and those planted this year will be a great Christmas tree for some family in typically 6 to 8 years.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Restoring Wetlands

We received an email recently from someone at the Environmental Defense Fund containing links to a 3 part series of online articles outlining how they use post-harvest, farm-grown Christmas trees to restore and preserve coastal wetlands in Louisiana and Alabama.

They are very good, so we wanted to share them.

Our three most recent posts have discussed the ways that real and artificial Christmas trees could be recycled for use in wetland protection. In the series, titled "Gifts That Keep On Giving", we examined past programs and described some innovative new ways that trees could be put to use in "green" activities after the holidays.

Here are the links to the three articles:

Part I:
Part II:
Part III:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Back to the Grind and Back to the Earth

We received this great email just before Christmas vacation:

From: J.N.
Sent: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 3:20 PM
To: info@realchristmastrees.org
Subject: Re: Fake Trees...

I read the christmas tree debate on your website and was mortified about what I learned regarding fake trees!!! Since a kid, my family ALWAYS bought fake trees...after the holiday, we'd store it in it's box and re-use it the following year. I'm now an adult and haven't had a tree in over 5 years, so this year I bought another fake pre-lit tree, about 4.5 feet tall. I never read about fake trees until now. It's disturbing to know that they have chemicals in them that can cause cancer...kinda makes me want to go home and throw out the one I have now (and i don't even like the stupid thing...it's not full..i added my own decorations and it's still has too many spaces in between)! Now knowing what I know, I'll get a real tree next year.

I was never really interested in a real tree because I always heard as a kid that you have to water it everyday because if it dries out, it can cause a fire... something like that. I also heard the pines fall off and just make a mess! When I used to put trees up, I'd let it stay until Jan. 3rd. This one is coming down and going in the trash on Dec. 26th!!!! So now you're telling me I have toxins all throughout the air in my house...gee just great..think I'll keep this from my sister (who lives with me, also an adult), until AFTER I take the tree down!!!!! I figure I spent 20 bucks on the stupid thing so I may as well keep it up until after xmas.


Thanks for sharing Jennifer. Yes, there are lots of crazy myths and misperceptions out there about Christmas trees.

Check out the photos from the tree lighting in Riga, Latvia. Here’s a note from the U.S. Embassy in Latvia http://on.fb.me/i1EB85
I am happy to tell you that yesterday we participated in the opening of the Find Yours! Project organized by Riga City Council. There are 25 countries/embassies participating in the project, and each country has its own Christmas tree. However, American Christmas tree is special due to our participation in the Christmas Tree Exchange project, as you know! Our PAO Amy Storrow was representing the U.S. Embassy during yesterday ceremony and giving the American Christmas tree as a gift to the city of Riga. Here is the link where you can view the pictures we took :
Tatjana Savranska
U.S. Embassy
Public Affairs Section

What a great celebration!

So in the final phase of following our “farm to home to recycle” tree, I recycled my tree this past week. Read earlier blog entries to learn about the The Rocks Tree Farm in New Hampshire where the tree was planted, raised and harvested. After it brought me enjoyment in my home this past holiday season, I took about an hour total out of my schedule to take the tree to be recycled. Here’s a series of photos showing this process.

Here's the tree after being taken outside my house. You'll notice a few things I'd recommend as tips. First, it's a good idea to let the water in the stand be absorbed the last few days or removed...the less still in there the better. Second, I use an old blanket to make carrying and transporting the tree easier and less messy.

I just wrap up the tree like a piece of sausage, then removed the stand.

Into my car it goes.

And I drive down to one of the parks where trees can be dropped off for the mulcher. You can see trees and piles of free mulch in the background. The program where I live is run by the St. Louis City Parks & Rec Department.

And back to the Earth it goes. The farm will plant another one this Spring, this tree will decompose and break down into it's component compounds and return nutrients back to the Earth.

The cycle is complete.