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NEWPORT—Each year, more than 30 million American households celebrate the holidays with a fresh, farm-grown Christmas tree.
With 478,069 trees harvested in 2012—ranking them seventh nationwide—Virginia Christmas tree farmers are contributing significantly to the holiday tradition.
“We’ve got plenty of Christmas trees in Virginia,” said Sue Bostic, who grows trees on her family’s Craig County farm. Each year, up to 1,400 customers choose and cut their own Christmas tree at Joe’s Trees. The Bostics have been growing Christmas trees since 1962 and started their choose-and-cut operation in 1993.
Despite the dry summer, Bostic said it’s been a good year for Christmas trees because of the rainy fall. More moisture in the ground means the trees will stay fresh longer after they are cut.
Grayson County Christmas tree grower Kevin Thompson is anticipating a good harvest as well. He grows about 65,000 Fraser firs and sells them to retail operations throughout Virginia and as far away as Iowa, Louisiana and Florida. “We have good, quality trees in Virginia,” Thompson said.
Bostic agreed. Her family grows 75,000 trees from seedlings to 14-foot specimens. They’ve planted Fraser fir as well as concolor and Canaan firs, white pines and spruce trees. Virginians’ favorites are Fraser firs because the trees shed less than other varieties and because their short needles hold heavy ornaments.
Thompson begins harvesting his trees the first weekend of each November, and Joe’s Trees will open Nov. 20. Bostic said her busiest time is the first weekend in December, and many of her repeat customers have made tree selection a family holiday tradition. “Sometimes Thanksgiving is the only time everyone gathers, so that’s when they choose and cut their tree.”
Fresh-cut Christmas trees can last for months if you treat them right, Bostic said. Whether you cut your own or buy from a retail lot, the first thing you should do is “cut a half-inch off the stump, and place it in water,” she said. “If you can’t put it in the stand immediately, then let it sit in a bucket of water until you’re ready to place it in the stand.”
After that, the key is to make sure the reservoir in the tree stand stays wet. “If you let it go dry, the trunk forms a pine sap seal and the tree won’t drink any more water,” Bostic said. But keeping the tree watered and away from direct heat sources like a fireplace or wood-burning stove will help keep it fresh throughout the holidays.
“I’ve kept a tree up until March just to see how long it would keep,” Bostic said.
If you can’t cut your own tree, Bostic recommends asking sellers where their trees are from and when they were cut. “If it was cut in Virginia, it will be fresher.”
Media: Contact Bostic at 540-544-7303 or Thompson at 276-579-3103.
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