When we think of buying local during the holiday season, many of us imagine visiting quaint little shops on our town's main strip. But officials from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) are encouraging residents to buy local in a less likely way: by purchasing a real Christmas tree.
“The holidays are time for family and tradition. Families gathering for the holidays should enjoy the presence of a fresh, natural New York Christmas tree in their home,” said NYSDAM Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine at an event in Albany last week. Three New York Christmas tree farms donated trees and wreaths to decorate the state Capitol and Governor's Mansion.
New York is home to about 1,000 Christmas tree growers, according to the 2007 Census. These farmers harvest nearly 350,000 trees each year. Popular varieties of Christmas trees grown in New York include Fraser and Balsam Firs; White and Blue Spruces; and Canaan, Douglas and Concolour Firs.
According to NYSDAM, the state's Christmas tree farms serve as economic drivers for farmers in rural areas by providing additional income and seasonal jobs, as well as spurring tourism.
"Christmas tree farms use land that might otherwise be developed as its soil is not often suited for typical agricultural crops. They help stabilize soil and protect local water supplies," NYSDAM said in a statement. "They also absorb carbon dioxide and other gases. One acre of Christmas trees emits enough oxygen for 18 people."
While real Christmas trees require more maintenance than artificial trees, purchasing a real tree each year can serve as a family tradition, especially if you visit a cut-your-own farm. And while artificial trees can last many seasons, there's no way to recycle the trees, which are made of PVC plastic. Meanwhile, real trees can be chopped into mulch for spring landscaping or otherwise recycled by municipalities.
Westchester County is home to a few cut-your-own Christmas tree farms:
Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm
1335 White Hill Road
Yorktown Heights, NY 10598
62 Granite Springs Road
Granite Springs, NY 10527
Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard
130 Hardscrabble Road
North Salem, NY 10560
To care for your Christmas tree, the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York offers some tips, including sawing 1/4 inch off the bottom of your tree before placing it in a stand, making sure to water the tree every day and keeping it away from heat and sunny windows, which will dry out the tree.