Creating Christmas Memories

Preparation for the Christmas season starts early at the Old Log House Plantation, a Christmas tree farm in Somerset, Ohio. During the heat of the summer, workers hand trim hundreds of trees so they will have the perfect Christmas tree shape around the holidays. In October, the whirl of a mixer fills Richard and Marjorie Christensen’s house as she mixes the first batch of about 300 dozen homemade cookies, which will be frozen and later baked fresh for customers who travel to the Perry County farm to cut their Christmas trees. In the 1 1/2-story cabin, built of logs from an 1827 barn, holiday decorations need to be put up by the day after Thanksgiving – the start of the Christmas tree buying season for many.

“It’s all about creating the perfect memory while getting a Christmas tree,” Richard said as he walked through his 70-acre farm. “We’ve got fresh baked cookies, wagon rides with work horses, hot chocolate, garlands and wreaths. It’s great to see the kids come back smiling and excited. It’s all about the experience – making sure they have a good time.”

The Christensens are one of about 450 Christmas tree growers in Ohio. The state produces approximately 1.5 million Christmas trees a year, making it the 13th largest producer in the United States, according to the Ohio Christmas Tree Association.

Currently, there are about 500,000 U.S. acres in production for growing Christmas trees with each acre providing the daily oxygen requirement of 18 people. The trees are grown as crops – like corn or pumpkins – and after they are harvested, up to three seedlings are planted to replace them.

Green until spring
When picking out a Christmas tree, test it to see how healthy it is. Pull on the needles and smell them. If a lot of needles fall out, the tree may be too dry. The needles also should be fragrant. Look at the trunk to make sure it is not too crooked and that the tree hasn’t been tinted too much. Some trees that are harvested early require a little tinting, which is nontoxic, Arnold said.

Once you get the tree home, put it in water as soon as possible. If the tree has been cut within eight hours, you won’t have to recut it. If you have to make a fresh cut, remove about half an inch from the bottom of the trunk and cut straight. Keeping water in the stand is a key to a healthy tree. Freshly cut trees absorb a lot of water in the first week – those with four-inch diameters may use more than four quarts per day, according to Ohio State University Extension. Richard Christensen said that with proper care, the Canaan trees displayed in his log cabin stay green until spring.

“Treat your Christmas tree like a fresh cut rose – give it a second cutting and immediately put it in water. Properly watered, it’ll be as fragrant as a rose,” Arnold said.

Attention teachers and parents: Find out how this story connects to Ohio’s Academic Content standards for social studies.

To find a christmas tree farm in your area, check out the Buying Local Directory.

Types of Christmas trees
The top-selling Christmas trees nationwide are the balsam fir, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine and white pine. The Christensens said Canaan (pronounced cah-NAAN) firs are the most popular Christmas trees sold on their farm, noting that the trees are very fragrant, have good needle retention and can hold heavy ornaments. Depending on the variety, it takes between four and 15 years to grow an average size Christmas tree of six to seven feet tall.

Recycling Christmas trees
Christmas trees are biodegradable, and consumers can find the nearest recycling program by logging onto the National Christmas Tree Association website

Recycled Christmas trees have many uses, including:

• Chippings used as mulch

• Beachfront erosion prevention

Lake and river shoreline stabilization

• Fish habitat

Christmas trees should not be burned in a fireplace or wood stove because doing so can cause creosote buildup.

Source: National Christmas Tree Association