Number of Arkansas Christmas tree farms cut by half
- Number of Christmas tree farms/acres declines sharply in Arkansas
- Oregon top Christmas tree growing state
LITTLE ROCK -- Santa may have fewer Arkansas-grown trees to stow his presents this year, with the latest Census of Agriculture showing the number of Christmas tree farms in Arkansas declining sharply from 59 in 2007 to just 29 in 2012.
The Census of Agriculture shows the number of acres devoted to Christmas trees in Arkansas also declined from 562 in 2007 to 227 in 2012.
Oregon is the top Christmas tree state, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, with 1,517 farms on 53,605 acres. North Carolina was second with 1,370 farms on 40,352 acres and Pennsylvania third with1,360 farms on 31, 577 acres.
“There are a few reasons for the decrease in farms in Arkansas - one is that we don’t have the climate to grow the species that people want such as Noble, Frazier or Douglas firs,” said Tamara Walkingstick, associate director of the Arkansas Forest Resources Center.
Demand for trees has sagged and while “prices for farm grown trees have not gone up, the cost of growing them has,” she said. “It’s hard for tree growers to make money.”
Many growers have turned their tree farms into agritourism opportunities that include holiday photo ops, hot chocolate, petting zoos and other family friendly activities.
“Christmas tree farming isn’t a big-dollar business,” Walkingstick said. “Growers have to diversify and sell the whole Christmas tree experience to offset rises in the cost of growing the trees.”
Those Arkansas farms that do grow trees typically opt for Virginia and white pines as well Leyland Cypress.
According to a National Christmas Tree Association poll, consumers bought more than 33.02 million real trees in 2013, up from 24.5 million in 2012. The purchase of artificial trees also rose between 2012 and 2013 from 10.9 million to 14.7 million.
Of the real trees purchased, NCTA said 85 percent were pre-cut and 14 percent came from cut-your-own farms. The remaining 1 percent didn’t offer an answer in the poll.
Keep the tree fresh
To keep a real Christmas tree fresh as long as possible, it’s important to buy the freshest one available. Walkingstick recommends asking the retailer how recently a tree was cut and then doing a quick test of its freshness.
“You can judge a tree’s freshness by grabbing a branch and pulling it lightly toward you,” she says. “There should be very few needles falling off in your hand. There are going to be some needles, of course, but if you simply touch that tree and needles are just falling everywhere, then it’s probably not a fresh tree.”
Then, says Walkingstick, it’s a good idea to bounce the tree up and down and make sure that few green needles fall from it.
As soon as you get the tree home, cut a half-inch to an inch from its base, and put it immediately in a bucket of fresh water. “Your tree stand should allow for at least a quart of water for each inch of the tree trunk’s diameter,” she said.
Other tips on keeping your live Christmas tree:
- To keep it fresh in your home, don’t place it near heat sources, and make sure to keep the stand full of water.
- Use only the lights designated for indoor use on your tree, and turn the lights off when you can’t keep an eye on them.
- Once you have taken all the necessary precautions, sit back and bask in the glow of your Christmas tree.
For more information about forestry, visit www.uaex.uada.edu or contact your county extension office.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service