Christmas Tree Facts

During the 2012 holiday season, more than 700 farms participated nationally in the Trees for Troops program which delivered 18,694 real Christmas trees from twenty-nine states to military families on fifty-three bases (including two bases overseas).

For 2013, the VCTGA members will be donating 1,100 trees to Trees for Troops.

For every real Christmas tree harvested, 2 to 3 seedlings are planted in its place.

It can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of average retail sale height (6 feet), but the average growing time in 7 years.

Real Christmas trees are an all-American product, grown in all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii. Most artificial trees are manufactured in Korea, Taiwan, or Hong Kong.

Real trees are a renewable, recyclable resource. Artificial trees contain non-biodegradable plastics and metals.

The top Christmas tree producing states are Oregon, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, California, and North Carolina...and Virginia is gaining fast!

The top selling Christmas trees are: balsam fir, Douglas-fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine, and white pine.

There are about 1 million acres in production for growing Christmas trees. Each acre provides the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people.

There are about 15,000 Christmas tree growers in the U.S., and over 100,000 people employed full or part time in the industry.

There are approximately 5,000 choose-and-cut farms in the U.S.

Virginia is #9 in the U.S. by number of operations with Christmas tree sales and #6 by total trees harvested and total acreage, according to USDA statistics in 2007.

CHRISTMAS TREE FACTS

During the 2012 holiday season, more than 700 farms participated nationally in the Trees for Troops program which delivered 18,694 real Christmas trees from twenty-nine states to military families on fifty- three bases (including two bases overseas).

For every real Christmas tree harvested, 2 to 3 seedlings are planted in its place.

It can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of average retail sale height (6 feet), but the average growing time in 7 years.

Real Christmas trees are an all-American product, grown in all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii. Most artificial trees are manufactured in Korea, Taiwan, or Hong Kong.

Real trees are a renewable, recyclable resource. Artificial trees contain non-biodegradable plastics and metals.

The top Christmas tree producing states are Oregon, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, California, and North Carolina…and Virginia is

#10 in the U.S. by number of operations with Christmas tree sales
#7 by total trees harvested
#8 by total acreage

Virginia harvested 478,069 cut trees! (2012, the last USDA Census of agriculture)

The top selling Christmas trees are: balsam fir, Douglas-fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine, and white pine.

There are about 1 million acres in production for growing Christmas trees. Each acre provides the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people.

There are about 15,000 Christmas tree growers in the U.S., and over 100,000 people employed full or part time in the industry.

There are approximately 5,000 choose-and-cut farms in the U.S.

This year over 37 million American families will celebrate the holidays with the fragrance and beauty of a real Christmas tree.

The Virginia Christmas tree industry is made up of thousands of growers. The size of any Christmas tree farm ranges from less than an acre to as large as several hundred acres, with a few growers having a thousand or more acres. It is estimated that there are over seven million Christmas trees growing in Virginia today. Every year approximately one to two million Virginia grown trees are sold with a wholesale value of 20-40 million dollars. These trees were planted by Christmas tree farmers and are replanted yearly. The Christmas tree industry may top $50 million dollars when the value of foliage greens that make wreaths and garland is added.

Most Christmas tree growers do not rely on these sales as their sole source of income. Christmas tree farmers tend to have varied backgrounds. They may have prior farming experience, but are just as likely to be a doctor, an accountant, a truck driver, a civil engineer or a nurse. It seems that there is some indefinable appeal that motivates people to become Christmas tree farmers.

Virginia Christmas tree growers are fortunate in that most species sold as Christmas trees can be grown in some region of the state thus allowing the consumer a wide variety of a fresh Virginia grown product.

Virginia grown Christmas trees can be found at choose and cut farms, retail lots and chain stores. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in cooperation with the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association issues a Christmas tree choose-and-cut guide to help the consumer locate these farms. Additional information on the location of wholesale and retail sales, species characteristics, and tree care can be found elsewhere on www.VirginiaChristmasTrees.org .

A visit to a choose and cut tree farm assures the consumer of the freshest tree possible as well as an opportunity for a memorable Christmas experience. Christmas trees purchased at retail lots and chain stores may be Virginia grown, but just as likely come from out-of-state. Retail lots displaying the Virginia Finest logo is your best choice for a Virginia grown tree.

Want to learn more? The Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom has plenty of information about Christmas Trees and Tree Farming in this issue of What’s Growing On In Virginia?

FOLKLORE

The tree, used as a symbol of life, is a tradition older than Christianity and not exclusive to any one religion. It’s a part of our holiday customs that engages not only our senses of sight, touch, and smell, but also our sense of tradition, hope and good will.

Long before there was a Christmas, Egyptians brought green palm branches into their homes on the shortest day of the year in December as a symbol of life’s triumph over death.

Romans adorned their homes with evergreens during Saturnalia, a winter festival in honor of Saturnus, their god of agriculture. Druid priests decorated oak trees with golden apples for their winter solstice festivities.

In the middle ages, the Paradise tree, an evergreen hung with red apples, was the symbol of the feast of Adam and Eve held on December 24th.

The first recorded reference to the Christmas tree dates to the 16th century. In Strasbourg, Germany (now part of France), families both rich and poor decorated fir trees with colored paper, fruits and sweets. The retail Christmas tree lot also dates back that far – in those times, older women would sell trees harvested from nearby forests.

The tradition spread through Europe and was brought to the United States by German settlers and by Hessian mercenaries paid to fight in the Revolutionary War. In 1804 U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Dearborn (now Chicago) hauled trees from surrounding woods to their barracks at Christmas.

The popularity of the Christmas tree then proliferated. Charles Minnegrode introduced the custom of decorating trees in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1842. In 1851, Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds loaded with trees from the Catskills to the streets of New York and opened the first retail lot in the United States.

Franklin Pierce, our 14th President, brought the Christmas tree tradition to the White House. In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony now held every year on the White House lawn.

Since 1966, members of the National Christmas Tree Association have presented a beautiful, fresh Christmas tree to the President and first family. This tree is displayed each year in the Blue Room of the White House.

In Virginia, the winner of the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association’s Annual Christmas Tree and Wreath Contests, has the honor of presenting the Governor’s Mansion trees and wreaths, usually the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Each year, the Governor issues a proclamation designating December as Christmas Tree Month. Contact the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for details. http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/media.shtml

The first National Christmas Tree Promotion program is starting this year using grower contributed funds through a USDA Check Off program. • Check out the campaign website (and invite your friends and family as well): www.itschristmaskeepitreal.com (live as of 11/16/16)

CARE OF FRESH CUT TREES IN THE HOME

Tree freshness is always a concern. A visit to a choose-and-cut farm and cutting your own tree is one way to assure freshness. Pre-cut trees on retail lots require a closer inspection. The foliage of a pre-cut tree should be flexible when the needle is bent and when the tree is shook very few needles should drop. As soon as you get your tree home, make a fresh straight 1⁄4 inch cut across the base of the trunk and place it in a bucket of water. Use a tree stand that will hold a gallon or more of water. A fresh tree may take up three or more quarts of water a day for the first few days after it is placed in water. Do not place the tree near a source of heat and never let the water level in the bowl drop below the base of the tree. Make sure light cords are in good working order and are turned off when you go to bed or leave the house.

Care for Living Trees

In many parts of the country, people celebrate Christmas with a living tree. The roots are kept in a “ball” of earth. The ball can be wrapped in burlap or set into a biodegradable container or pot. The tree may be added to the landscape after the holidays.

To use a living Christmas tree successfully, please observe the following points:

  • The adaptability of the species should be considered. Many species are shipped outside of their natural area and may not be adaptable to other areas.
  • Check with a reliable nursery or extension forester.
  • The tree should be stored in an unheated, sheltered area such as a garage or porch, out of the wind and sun. Do not expose the tree to freezing temperatures at any time.
  • The tree will need adequate water. The root ball or soil should be kept slightly damp but not flooded. Wrap the root ball of a balled tree in plastic or place in a tub while it is in the house.
  • Live trees may be decorated, but with care. If lights are used, they must not give off any heat.
  • Do not remove the tree directly from a warm house out into freezing temperatures. Instead, move to a sheltered area first for several days.
  • If the ground is unfrozen, the tree may be replanted. The spot to be dug may be mulched to prevent freezing. Plant as soon as possible.
  • Do not remove the burlap and strapping (unless it is plastic). This keeps the root ball solid and secure. In the instance of a plastic cover, cut the cord and roll down the plastic at least half way prior to planting.
  • Tap the tree container of a potted tree and remove prior to planting. Do not attempt to remove soil from the root system. Earth removed from the original hole should be backfilled around the root ball. Mulch heavily over the top of the planted root ball to prevent it from freezing. Water only as needed: a flooded tree may not survive.
  • Stake the trees to prevent wind tipping or damage during the first growing season.
  • Enjoy!

    If you live in a climate that is not amenable to winter planting, why not celebrate “Christmas in July” by planting a seedling? It’s great fun for all ages!

A Real Tree Experience grown and sold by the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association makes Christmas come alive! A Real Virginia Christmas Tree connects grown-ups with cherished traditions of Christmas past and creates joy for children that lives on and on into Christmas future.

A Real Tree Experience…

Back to Basics

  • the natural look, feel, and fragrance
  • enjoyment outdoors and indoors
  • family time and tradition
  • wholesome and healthy
  • learning experience for the children

Truly ‘Green’

Virginia Grown

  • all natural, sustainable resource
  • good for our environment
  • none of the waste of artificial trees
  • locally grown and sold by your farming neighbors
  • creates and keeps jobs in VA
  • supports VA agriculture
  • quality products/readily available

Eco-Friendly

  • creates green spaces
  • purifies the air, absorbs CO2 and releases O2
  • renewable/recyclable
  • controls erosion
  • provides wildlife habitats
  • non-polluting – biodegradable

Your Choice

  • buy from retail lot for convenience
  • Choose and cut for outdoor adventure
  • Varieties, shapes, sizes to suit every setting