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A father-and-son tree farm in Jefferson, NC, supplied the nation’s Christmas tree this year. The 19-foot Fraser fir grown by Rusty and Beau Estes of Peak Farms was presented Nov. 23 to first lady Michelle Obama for display in the Blue Room at the White House. This is the 12th time a North Carolina grower has provided the nation’s Christmas tree, and prospects for a 30-million tree sales season nationwide were deemed bright.

NCXTA812-Jennifer-GreeneJennifer GreeneVice President Joe Biden’s District of Columbia home at the U.S. Naval Observatory will also be adorned with a North Carolina Christmas tree, one from Paul Smith of the Cool Springs Nursery in Banner Elk. “This is the first time the White House tree and vice president’s tree have come from the same state,” noted North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler in a news release.

As grower of the Grand Champion tree, selected at the National Christmas Tree Association’s annual convention in Sacramento, CA, this August, Peak Farms presented the 2012 White House tree. Cool Springs Nursery, chosen Reserve Champion, presented the vice president’s tree.

Jennifer Greene, executive director of the NC Christmas Tree Association in Boone, NC, told The Produce News in a Nov. 23 interview that conditions have been right for a good Christmas tree crop there. North Carolina ranks second in the nation, behind Oregon, in Christmas tree production. More than five million Christmas trees are harvested annually in North Carolina, a crop worth $85 million.

“A cold fall, early freeze and good amount of moisture have provided an excellent crop this year. The NC Christmas tree industry welcomes an early freeze in the season because it ‘sets’ the needles on Fraser fir trees and helps them to retain their needles longer once they are cut. Consumers should notice an ample supply and selection to fit any budget,” Ms. Greene said.

“Prices remain pretty much the same as last year and the market is looking very pleasing,” she added. “I have wholesale growers reporting that they have already exceeded last year’s sales and greenery sales seem to be up as well.”

Oregon growers harvested 6.4 million Christmas trees with a commodity value of $99 million in 2011, according to the Oregon Agricultural Statistics Service, and 2012 sales are expected to top that. California is the biggest buyer of Christmas trees grown in the Northwest, and Mexico is the biggest foreign buyer.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas to folks at the National Christmas Tree Association as rosy scenarios from the two main producing states roll in. “We’re excited about the possibility of more than 30 million trees being sold this year,” said Rick Dungey, spokesman at the association in Chesterfield, MO, pointing to a Harris Poll that indicated 35 percent of all 118 million U.S. households would buy a real Christmas tree for the 2012 holidays, up from the usual 28 percent. Christmas tree sales are stressful for growers and retailers, he said in an interview earlier this year. They are jammed into a three-week period, involve perishable items and are mostly sold on a cash basis. The most common price paid for a real tree in 2011 was $34.87. It takes about seven years to grow an average tree six to seven feet tall.