O Christmas Tree

December 15, 2020 in Crops

O Christmas Tree

A Very, Merry Renewable Resource

As we enter the heart of the Christmas season, we thought it would be appropriate to write a post that focuses on the U.S. Christmas tree industry and take a look at common varieties decorated by families across the nation, perhaps even yours. Although it is probably unsurprising to you, different varieties serve different consumer desires and locations. Have heavy ornaments? You’re probably in the market for a Noble fir. Hate needles getting all over your furniture? You probably want to look for a Scotch pine. 

We found much of our information for this post from the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) and its very informative website. (Curious about a specific variety? They’ve got 16 Christmas tree varieties profiled.) The organization’s mission is “to protect and advocate for the farm-grown Christmas Tree industry” and roughly three-quarters of the farm-raised Christmas trees purchased in the U.S. come from the organization’s affiliated growers. 

In 2017, more than 15 million Christmas trees were harvested according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The trees were grown by over 10,000 tree farms covering nearly 300,000 acres. The total value of all those Christmas trees was about $377 million. NCTA notes that Christmas trees were added to the NASS once-per-five-years U.S. Census of Agriculture in 1997. So while pre-1997, publicly-available Christmas tree data is most assuredly out there, it probably is not quite as comprehensive as it has been over the past 20 years. 

Regardless of where you live, you probably have many options to source and buy a live Christmas tree. That’s because Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states, according to NCTA. But what state produces the most Christmas trees? That would be Oregon with over 4.7 million trees cut in 2017. North Carolina comes in second at 4 million. Together, the top two states account for more than half of the total Christmas trees cultivated annually in the U.S. After those two, there is a big drop to Michigan with 1.55 million. Pennsylvania was the only other state to exceed one million trees in 2017, at 1.05 million. 

Courtesy of the Oregon Farm Bureau

Because of the growth rate of Christmas trees, farmers who grow them need to plan ahead 7-10 years on average so that they are prepared to adequately supply the market. To put it mildly, that is a difficult prediction to make! Growers usually plant an eighth of their land designated for Christmas tree production each year with seedlings so that they have a reliable annual supply of trees to sell each year. 

The biggest question consumers face these days when it comes to Christmas trees is: Real or artificial? NCTA notes that growers plant 1-3 seedlings per harvested tree to keep the supply steady. Trees and timber are the original renewable resource and Christmas trees are no different. A consumer can also choose a tree for its aroma and the process of picking out a fresh tree or even personally harvesting one from a tree farm or a forest is a fun holiday tradition for many families. Of course, it is difficult to beat the convenience of an artificial tree, but it doesn’t support your local Christmas tree farm like buying a real one does. While you most likely have already chosen your tree this year, you can ponder all the pros and cons of the real vs. artificial Christmas tree debate over the next year and decide accordingly next Christmas.

Once you’ve decided to go with a real Christmas tree, you can head on over to the NCTA website– https://realchristmastrees.org –to find the perfect tree using their tree locator tool. Don’t forget to check out their Selection Tips and Care Tips! Like we said…informative.

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