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(560 words)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
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:
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.
# # #
By Mary HightowerU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) email@example.com