‘Real’ good reasons to buy natural trees

December 6, 2009
By APRIL DIODATO OBSERVER Staff Writer Does buying a real Christmas tree offer more benefits than an artificial one? The answer to this ongoing debate seems simple for local tree farmers, asserting sales of real trees help support the area economy and suggesting they might even be more “green” (literally and figuratively) than their faux-fir counterparts. Most importantly, they agree, a real, live evergreen is part of continuing a family tradition that is an integral part of the holiday season. Carl Forbes of Dixieland Tree Farm, located at 12189 Versailles-Silver Creek Road near Perrysburg, planted his first tree 20 years ago and is now in his 13th year selling Christmas trees. His wife, Judy, has a wreath side-business, which she crafts herself and makes the decorative bows by hand. “Some families we’ve had come since their children were born and now are older,” Carl said. He believes the small, local tree farm can offer something the large chain stores can’t: a warm, homey atmosphere. Chester Grudzien of Zoar Tree Farm, 2598 Allen Road in Gowanda, said he’s seeing a resurgence in the popularity of real trees. “People like the experience of going out and cutting one themselves – they bring the whole family out,” Grudzien said. “Sometimes they spend the whole day just looking around for trees... usually when we have snow up on the hill here, sometimes someone will bring their sleds so the kids slide down the hills while their parents are looking for a tree.” A veteran of the Christmas tree business, Pat Heaton of Heaton’s Tree Farm in North East, Pa., has seen business boom in recent years – a “return to the roots” of sorts. The Heaton Tree Farm started planting trees in 1970 and has been selling trees for 31 years. “We always sold trees and we always had a good business, but after 9/11 happened and it seemed like people weren’t going to spend the money for a real tree, we were swamped and we’ve been that way ever since,” Heaton said. “ I think maybe there was a change in going back to the basics... They said they were going back to the old traditions of going out and cutting their own tree.” While some balk at cutting down a tree for the benefit of holiday decoration, several farmers say real trees are the more environmentally-friendly option. Forbes said artificial trees are not biodegradeable whereas real trees can be recycled. Amme Gens of Over The Hill Tree Farm, 9512 Coon Road in Dayton, said that for every Christmas tree they cut down, five are planted in its place. “It takes only a year for a real tree to go back into the earth and an artificial tree never goes away,” Gens said. Gens added that if a fire was to occur, a real tree poses less of a burning hazard, contrary to the beliefs of some. “An artificial tree, if it catches on fire, it will burn hotter and faster than a real tree,” Gens said. For Mary Strawser of M & R Greenhouses in Sheridan, located on Route 20, it’s the wonderful aroma of pine and the nostalgia that make real trees an obvious choice. In her childhood days, artificial fir wasn’t commonplace – cutting down a tree every year was the norm. It’s a tradition that has kept tree farmers is business. “By having more people buying trees, it keeps everybody employed,” Strawser said. The farmers concurred: purchasing a local tree keeps money in Western New York. “When a real tree is bought from a local grower, first of all you’re supporting the local economy and the American economy,” Forbes said. Send comments on this story to adiodato@observertoday.com

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Christmas tree hunting is an honored tradition among many families.



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