The North Carolina Fraser fir was the Rodney Dangerfield of the forest in the 1970s — it got no respect. Today, it has reached stardom, accounting for upwards of $75 million in sales and chosen by more than 20 percent of consumers who buy farm-grown Christmas trees.
The Fraser fir is a 12-time winner of the national tree competition, displayed at the White House more than any other variety of Christmas tree. It is native to the Western Appalachian Mountains and now makes up 90 percent of all Christmas trees grown and harvested in North Carolina.
“When you grow the very best, why grow anything else?” said Jennifer Greene, executive director of the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association in Boone, NC. She touted the Fraser’s needle retention, pliable but strong branches that hold heavy ornaments and soft, dark-green needles that don’t prick your fingers.
“We have had a great growing season and we are looking forward to a great sales season,” Greene said. She expects a big crop this year because back when this year’s harvest was planted in 2006, “planting numbers increased because the economy was thriving and tree sales were at their peak.” Also, as the economy continues to improve, and the supply of trees from other parts of the country isn’t getting any bigger, she noted.
“I think this sales increase will include supermarkets due to the economy, tree supplies, and as more supermarkets carry trees,” she predicted. “Our toughest competition is against artificial trees. Many consumers still are not aware that real trees are a more environmentally friendly choice than artificial trees,” she added.
Artificial trees have not made inroads in supermarkets, she said. “Most supermarkets display their trees outside in areas used at other times for plants. Outside just isn’t the greatest place to display boxed fake trees,” Greene observed. “My experience also is that many grocery stores don’t have large areas for seasonal non-food products, and it takes a pretty good sized area to display a decent selection of both open and boxed fake trees.”