Thursday, December 20, 2012

Trees, environment and drooping?

We got an eamil from Char Miller of Pomona College, sharing his recent article outlining the environmental impact of plastic tree-shaped decorations, vs farm-grown Real Christmas Trees.

Dear colleagues - thought you and your colleagues would enjoy this column - please share and post!

Char Miller, Director
Environmental Analysis Program

W. M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis

Pomona College

Thanks for sharing Char.

It’s yet another example of how I feel that the “debate” about environmental impacts of growing, displaying and recycling a Real Christmas Tree vs. buying and eventually throwing away a plastic tree-shaped decoration is no longer even a debate.  It’s just a myth the plastic peddlers keep desperately trying to confuse people with.  It’s sad to see their duplicity and disingenuousness in the product promo for a plastic tree-shaped decoration including the phrase “Save a tree!” …printed on the product’s cardboard box.

I would disagree however with Mr. Lowenstein’s assertion that buying a tree from a farm labeled organic is better for the environment.  But overall, it’s another environmental group that supports Christmas tree farms and their sustainable, recyclable crop.

Here's a feel-good story from the Trees for Troops program.  It's a video produced and shared by American soldiers stationed in Kuwait receiving a donated Christmas tree from their home state of Indiana!

This was an interesting question about a tree "changing shape":

From: trixneron
Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 6:40 PM
To: NCTA-Rick Dungey
Subject: Droopy Christmas Tree
I have never had this happen to me before, my Christmas tree is droopy.  The water tub is full and has been for days, we trimmed the bottom and  drilled a hole in the tree before we put it up but everyday the bottom branches are getting closer and closer to the floor.  It's not dry or brittle at all, the leaves are soft and pliable, all in all it seems healthy.  Have you ever heard of this, and is there anything I can do to help perk it up?

As the plant tissue warms and the plant comes out of dormancy and it takes up moisture, the tissue will return to its "summer-like" condition. Meaning, the plant tissue will naturally become more pliable, bendable and flexible.  I don’t think there's anything wrong with your tree at all, the branches are returning to their natural position.  If you don't like that look, you can trim them from the tree, avoid hanging anything heavy on them which increases the bend, but no...there's not really anything you can do to cause them to point upright.

Finally, a couple photos to share.  First, you've all heard the phrase "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" from a popular Christmas carol.  But have you ever seen one at harvest?  This is what they look like before they "dance around" a roasting pan.

And here's my 2012 fresh, farm-grown Christmas Tree!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

local recycling

Often, we are asked, “How does NCTA promote Christmas tree recycling programs?”  In fact, tomorrow I’m on a webinar panel for Waste Age magazine talking about Christmas tree recycling programs.  As I’m sure most readers of this blog are aware, after Christmas, Real Trees can be recycled in a number of ways, such as becoming mulch for gardens and trails, habitats for fish or barriers to reduce shoreline erosion.

But nowadays, almost all Real Trees are recycled either in community programs or in someone’s garden or yard.  Recycling programs are done on a very local level.  Local tree recycling programs can be easily found through the Internet and in local news media.  We don’t have a resource specific to finding your local tree recycling program.

For example, where I live in St. Louis city, I received the following email from the city recycling program through my neighborhood association E-newsletter:

From: Recy, Cle []
Sent: Monday, December 10, 2012 10:21 AM
Subject: City of St. Louis Recycling Program Blue Bin News December 2012

Christmas Tree Recycling in St. Louis

The City will be offering Christmas tree recycling from December 27, 2012 until January 13, 2013 at the following loca­tions:

FOREST PARK, Lower Muny Opera parking lot.

O’FALLON PARK, West Florissant and Holly, picnic ground #4.

CARONDELET PARK, Grand and Holly Hills, area between gate and recycling containers.

These trees will be recycled into mulch, which is then available for use by City residents. Please keep in mind the following upon disposal: Remove all ornaments, tinsel, lights, and tree stand. Do not put the tree in a plastic bag or cover it. Wreaths and pine roping are not accepted at these sites. A City of St. Louis Refuse Division--Recycling Program Publication Reader Submissions Welcomed!


Now, that tells me all I need to know about how to recycle my tree after Christmas.  It probably tells you nothing if you don’t live in St. Louis.  But I bet a similar piece of information about recycling trees where you live can be found just as easily.  Whether through E-communications or a simple online search.


Peter Mason emailed NCTA to share the story about a cool project in the Seattle area.  Here is his note:


I volunteer for a community based environmental restoration group in Seattle, Friends of Madrona Woods. This year we are running a small fundraiser selling living trees to community members, who then donate them back to be planted in our public urban greenbelt after the holidays.

For more info on Madrona Woods restoration (where I volunteer) see:


Sounds like a cool program, thanks for sharing Peter.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thanks and Scents

We received this very kind message along with this photo from a soldier stationed in Afghanistan.  You gotta check this out and I challenge you to not be moved by it.

We received an interesting email from a tree farm in South Carolina responding to our weekly request to farms and lots to let us know how tree sales are going.
“Because of new customers, I had to order additional stands today from our supplier. The salesperson stated that this is happening all over the country. Additional orders are coming in to cover new customers who have not had a real tree in years and need a stand.” 

Well, that’s certainly a good sign.  And it also gives me a chance to reiterate the importance of having a good tree stand.  I see a lot of bad stands in stores, but there are also many good ones.  What makes a good one?  Water holding capacity (at LEAST 1 gallon for a typical 6 foot tall tree) and stability are the two most important qualities.  After that, choose a style you prefer.  Some prefer a center pin style where the lot or farm will drill a hole in the center of your tree’s trunk (this does NOT affect its ability to absorb water).  Some prefer the 4-bolt style.  There are also “claw” style and 2-piece bowl and stand style.

Here’s a question we get sometimes about a strange phenomenon, with my reply in Blue.
-----Original Message-----
From: Renee
Sent: Tuesday, December 04, 2012 9:47 PM
To: NCTA-Rick Dungey
Subject: Have a really bad odor

This is the first year I have had a Christmas tree smell really bad. It is making my whole home smell. I'm worried my kids are going to get sick from it. I wanted to know if it will go away?  Let me know if you can give me any tips.

Hello Renee.
There could be a number of things going on.  Commonly, a source of a bad smell is something people put in the water in the stand.   However, you didn’t mention that so I have to assume that’s not the case in your situation.  It is possible that the tree was harvested, shipped and stored in a humid, moist condition and that can be causing the bad smell.

While many species are described as having varying scents, only one species is commonly described as having a “bad” scent and that is the White Spruce.
If your tree is not that species, then the added moisture in the plant tissue from the water the tree is absorbing will boost its natural scent.  But sense of smell is very subjective and trees are each genetically unique. Try to snap or crush a few needles on the interior/back and that should release some aroma most would describe as "pine-ey" or "Christmas tree smell".

I'd need more information to give you more guidance than that.

And speaking of Christmas tree scent, here’s a nice segue.  Sara Altshul recently posted an article on about scientific evidence showing the smell of a Christmas tree is not only emotionally good for you, but also physically good for you.  “Pine and other evergreen trees, as it turns out, are loaded with compounds that have a variety of positive effects on the human body,” states Altshul.  Check out the article.  Get a fresh, farm-grown Christmas tree and be healthy. 
Yet another thing you can’t get from a plastic, tree-shaped decoration posing as a Christmas tree.  Just sayin'...



Monday, November 26, 2012

Farms and Conservation

Read a great article recently in the Missouri Conservationist magazine about Christmas Tree farms working in conjunction with the conservation department.  Provides great information about farms starting out and how they operate.  One of the featured farms is Meert Tree Farm, members of NCTA.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

It's tree time again!

Thanksgiving is the earliest it can be on the calendar this year (Nov 22) so we're already at "tree time." We thought we'd share a few tidbits from the autumn before many tree lots and tree farms open up on Friday. Interesting email question from October, with my reply in GREEN.

From: Alyssabeth
Sent: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 4:13 AM
To: NCTA-Rick Dungey
Subject: Fake Tree Hazard


My name is Alyssabeth.  This is my daughter first Christmas and she will be 9 months old.  We bought a fake tree a few years back before we had any kiddos.

My concern is I went online to find out about Christmas tree safety for the little ones only to find out that most fake trees contain lead. And so do Christmas lights. I am now freaking out and ready to toss my tree and all the lights into the trash. I don't know if i should because my Christmas tree box box and such say nothing about containing lead. I am worried. My tree is from China I purchased it at a retail store called Wal-Mart. Its a 6.5 foot Jackson Spruce Model Number : M-P70501.

Basically i want to know if i should worry or what i should do. About Christmas lights as well. 

Please tell me you can help me out here with advice and such.  Thank you for your time and consideration

Here’s some of the information we have gathered about the plastic, tree-shaped decorations.

The one thing I can guarantee is that a fresh, farm-grown Christmas Tree is a plant, and therefore does NOT contain lead.

Here are some other things going on as we head into the harvest and sales season.

Trees for Troops kicked off it's 8th year this week with the shipment of trees bound for troops deployed overseas.  Read about it here Trees for Troops Facebook Page

The White House Christmas Tree will be delivered and presented on Friday, November 23.  Look for great stories about the tree and this year's Grand Champion farm presenting the tree, Peak Farms from Jefferson, NC.  The Estes family are the owners.  Great people and a great story.

The NCTA web site got an overhaul this year, both aesthetically and programming-wise.  The "tree locator" has a new functionality based on a map generator, rather than just a list generator.  Check it out.

It won't be long now before we start getting lots of email questions about trees to pick one, how to care for one, how to recycle one.  You can browse old blog entries to see some of the more common questions we get and the answers to see if the answer to your question can be found.  Of course, you are always welcome to send us an email anyway.  We'll be happy to answer it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Christmas Tree and Drought

Lots of media stories out there about how drought in some areas are "hurting Christmas trees". Not a lot of understanding how a Christmas tree farm is managed though. Summer weather patterns don't really impact trees harvested later this year. Those are more mature trees with well-established root systems so they're not as susceptible to seasonal weather patterns as are younger trees. Low rain fall, excessive rain fall, early cold snap, bugs, disease...any number of those types of environmental factors could cause a tree to go into dormancy earlier than typical. Regardless, by the time they are harvested around Thanksgiving or later, the environmental conditions on the farm have changed much since summer time anyway. The seedlings farmers planted in the Spring however, can be damaged by excessive or insufficient rain fall. Mortality rates of newly planted seedlings can go up due to weather extremes. This is the risk any farmer faces regardless of the crop being raised. Consumers should not worry about the quality of trees they can find this year no matter what the weather was like in the summer.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Guest Blog from New Jersey Farmer

Guest blog from a farmer in New Jersey. We're not advocating one way or the other, just thought it would be interesting to share.
Subject: anti-farm laws not the answer Dear farmer friend, I received a request from an animal rights group seeking my farm’s support of a bill in the NJ State Senate. The authors of the bill claim that it will outlaw farmers’ abuse of animals by “using pens so small that nursing pigs cannot stand up or lie down.” It seems that they also feel that this law will “level” the playing field between those big greedy corporate conglomerates and us nice little friendly family farms (kind of a clever way to get our support, don’t you think?). I know of not a single NJ farm where pigs are in pens so small that they cannot stand up or lie down. Perhaps this group does. If so, I wish they would tell me the name and address of those farms. Although I no longer raise livestock (I grow choose and cut Christmas trees), I have had many years of experience raising pigs in the past. It is important to provide appropriate pens for nursing sows so that baby piglets are not crushed by the mother. What may appear to the inexperienced observer as a “cruel” process of restricting a sow’s movement is actually a method of keeping the babies alive. When I raised pigs, the farrowing pens were about 10’ x 10’ and had, what we referred to as, baby bumpers on all sides. The mother would lean against a wall and basically “flop down” to a prone position. Without the bumpers, babies would get squished without the mother pig even realizing what she had done. There may be a very small minority of farmers who actually abuse animals. That, I find despicable. But there are already laws on the books and more than adequate agencies to enforce those laws. I don’t buy into the concept that family farms (like mine) are in conflict with “industrial operations,” as this group implies. There is more than enough room for all of us in this country and I do not consider farms larger than my own to be the “enemy.” I have always been very reluctant to support new restrictions on agricultural endeavors. It’s hard enough being a farmer these days without “Big Brother” placing restriction after restriction on our activities. I believe that farmers (both small and large operations) have the best interest of animals as a top priority. I am sure that members of this group have only the best intentions in promoting new laws regarding farming. However, I have found that so many of the animal “rights” organizations simply don’t understand (or don’t wish to understand) the nature of farming. Farmers are good people. And left alone, we will do the right thing...for our farms and for our animals. It is for that reason that Shale Hills Farm cannot endorse this legislation. Mike Garrett Shale Hills Farm Sussex, NJ

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Learning in a new language

A student named Anna Galovich translated one of the lesson plans in the RealTrees4Kids! online curriculum for a communications class project and it's really good. Kind of a neat story.

Here's the original lesson plan in RT4K! and here's the translation page she did