Why not to feel guilty buying a live Christmas tree this holiday
Plus: Old and new trends in Michigan’s evergreen industry
Michigan’s Christmas tree legacy starts with the Scotch Pine. Easy to grow on soils where other agricultural products struggled, this hardy pine has helped establish growers across the state.
From these small beginnings evolved a massive industry. According to USDA NASS (National Agricultural Statistics Service), in 2013 Michigan Christmas trees sales were approximately 1.6 million, including 70,000 exports. Today, Michigan remains a leader in Christmas tree production on a large scale basis.
“IT’S CHRISTMAS. KEEP IT REAL.”
Under the umbrella of USDA, a new organization called the Christmas Tree Promotion Board is determined to keep fresh-cut Christmas trees in homes for the holidays. As part of the board’s efforts to further publicize the advantages of live versus fake trees, consumers will be seeing more of this catchy slogan: “It’s Christmas. Keep it Real.”
“It is very concerning that many people think an artificial tree is better for the environment. We were all taught to save trees, but the fallacy lies in that this is an agricultural product,” explains Marsha Gray, director of industry communications for the Christmas Tree Promotion Board and executive director, Michigan Christmas Tree Association.
“While the tree is growing it’s providing oxygen, clean air, wildlife habitat and helps stop soil erosion. Then when you’re done with it at the end of the season, it’s biodegradable. Trees can be recycled into mulch and even a few US cities are powered by waste wood, including Christmas trees.”
Fake trees, on the other hand, end up in landfills.
“By not buying a real tree, you’re not saving a tree. You’re putting a farmer out of business. These are family farms growing a product that is intended to be harvested and replanted.”
DOWN ON A CHOOSE-AND-CUT TREE FARM
Jerry Peterson, past board member of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association, has been selling choose-and-cut Christmas trees since 1988, even before opening Peterson’s Riverview Nursery in 1993. Fast forward to 2016 and the family operated business now grows 35,000 – 40,000 Christmas trees at one time on the farm, with close to 50 acres devoted to production.
With the average growing time of a Christmas tree taking seven years, not forgetting trimming and pruning each year, the commitment is not one taken lightly by growers. For Peterson, his continued enthusiasm is rooted deeply in customer satisfaction.
“The customers coming out to the farm to purchase trees are always in a good mood, which makes us feel happy knowing that our product is something that gives people so much enjoyment.”
Michigan is able to grow more different species of Christmas trees than any other state thanks to a moderate climate and well-drained soils, however the Peterson’s remain dedicated to Fraser Firs.
“Fraser Firs are one of the more challenging Christmas trees to grow, but they are in high demand and command a better price. Customers enjoy them for their excellent needle retention, dark green color, and pleasant fragrance.”
Taking great pride in supplying such high quality trees, the Peterson’s nursery has become a staple in the industry, serving the Midwest and beyond.
TREES FOR TROOPS
To ensure U.S. soldiers and their families enjoy a farm-fresh Christmas tree for the holidays, Michigan has proudly supported Trees for Troops since its inception in 2005. Each year Michigan’s Christmas tree growers have donated more than 1,000 trees to support the program, which has brightened Christmas for over 122,000 families at more than 65 military bases worldwide.
Peacock Road Tree Farm is just one of several offering customers the opportunity to also get involved and buy additional trees – making Trees for Troops one of Michigan’s new holiday traditions.
WHAT YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT FAKE TREES*
- Eighty percent (80%) of artificial trees worldwide are manufactured in China, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
- The plastic material (PVC) that most artificial Christmas trees are made of, can be a potential source of hazardous lead.
- Overloaded electrical outlets and faulty wires are the most common causes of holiday fires in residences – these are just as likely to affect artificial trees as real trees.
- Fake trees were invented by a company who made toilet bowl brushes, the Addis Brush Company.
WHAT YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT REAL TREES*
- Real trees are a renewable, recyclable resource.
- There are more than 4,000 local Christmas Tree recycling programs throughout the United States.
- There are about 350,000 acres in production for growing Christmas Trees in the U.S.; much of it preserving green space.
- There are close to 15,000 farms growing Christmas Trees in the U.S., and over 100,000 people are employed full or part-time in the industry.
- There are close to 350 million real Christmas trees currently growing on Christmas Tree farms in the U.S. alone, all planted by farmers.
This is a sneak peak of the article to be published in Michigan Agriculture magazine | 2017