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A Real Christmas Tree is the Natural Choice

We recently interviewed Nathan Meiser, loan officer with AgChoice Farm Credit. Each holiday season a difficult choice confronts shoppers: celebrate with a real tree or artificial tree? Nathan, who has worked in the forest products industry for many years, discusses why a real Christmas tree is the natural choice. Listen to the full podcast episode with Nathan here.

Could you help our listeners understand the benefits to using a real Christmas tree instead of an artificial tree?
The main benefit is that real trees positively contribute to the environment from the time they're planted until after the holiday season when they're recycled. While they're growing, Christmas trees support life by absorbing carbon dioxide and other gasses, and emitting fresh oxygen. It’s estimated that every acre of Christmas trees will produce a daily oxygen requirement of 18 people. In the United States, there's approximately about 1 million acres of Christmas trees, meaning about 18 million people get their daily need of oxygen from Christmas trees. 

There’s always a debate between real and artificial trees. The one big benefit to real Christmas trees is they're biodegradable. You can recycle them by planting them. You could use them for wildlife habitat. For artificial trees, when it's determined that that tree needs to go or it's time for a new one, and they go to a landfill or they get thrown away. It's a long time until those materials decompose. Many people think "Oh, I'll by an artificial tree and I'll have that forever." However, the statistics show an artificial tree only lasts for about six years, so most people replace artificial trees regularly. 

In the overall big picture, Christmas trees are a real positive for the environment.

Next, could you share with us a bit more about the Christmas tree industry here in Pennsylvania?
Nationwide, Pennsylvania ranks third in the nation for the number of Christmas tree farms. According to the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association, there's about 1,400 Christmas tree farms in the state, accounting for about 31,000 acres of Christmas trees. On a yearly basis, those Christmas tree farms harvest about 1 million trees per year. It’s a big impact on our economy, and also the environment for Pennsylvania. 

Pennsylvania is ideal for growing Christmas trees. We have the right weather, and a lot of the right soils. Additionally, Christmas trees also help stabilize the soil, protect our water supplies and provide habitat for the wildlife.

A lot of times Christmas trees are grown on soils that don't support other crops. You’ll see landscapes where Christmas trees can grow where it would be difficult to grow corn or soybeans. Christmas trees provide a good alternative. 

According to the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association, for every Christmas tree that is harvested each year, most of those farms plant somewhere between one to three new seedlings each year for each tree.

If you're looking for a Christmas tree farm your area, check out www.christmastrees.org. The website includes a directory of Christmas tree farms in Pennsylvania. In my local area, we have had some Christmas tree farms not transition to the next generation or they've sold their properties, so it’s hard to know what other farms are out there. This is a helpful site to see all of your local Christmas tree farms in one spot.

I’m assuming you get a real Christmas tree each year. Could you tell us about your own holiday traditions?
For us, we typically get our real Christmas tree, on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I'll admit, my wife pretty much runs point on that family tradition. I sometimes go to pick the tree, and sometimes I just stay home and unload it from the truck. But, usually, the tradition is we have some friends or family come over and my wife and her mom do the decorating of the tree. I learned quickly that I'm not in charge of putting the lights on.

While putting the tree up and decorating that Friday after Thanksgiving, our big tradition is we always watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation featuring Chevy Chase. That movie is from 1989, so I'm starting to date myself a little bit. Watching that movie and decorating is our official kickoff to the season. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our podcast listeners today?
Talking about Christmas trees got me thinking about holiday family traditions and memories around a real Christmas tree. It’s neat how something that comes from Pennsylvania farms is such an integral part of people's traditions and families. 

I have one last story to share today. When I grew up, each Christmas morning I would run downstairs and plug the Christmas tree lights in. I'm not sure what year it was, but it was 1980 something. I ran downstairs to turn on the Christmas tree, and the lights wouldn't come on. In fact, we had no lights in the house; no power. 

I said to myself, "What in the world is going on?" And as a kid I was thinking, "Oh my goodness, Christmas is falling apart." Low and behold, a squirrel had chewed the power line that came into our house, and we lost all power that Christmas morning.

Luckily, we did have a nice PP&L man that came out and got our power back on. Christmas morning was a little bit delayed, but we still had a good Christmas day. 

The part of that that still kind of cracks me up now is we did find the squirrel that was electrocuted. My dad ended up getting that squirrel mounted. So, we have this squirrel that's always a good Christmas memory that tried to steal Christmas morning from us. That was one time with the Christmas tree that I thought something had drastically gone wrong.
 

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