Christmas Tree referendum offers opportunities
The nation’s Christmas tree growers voted earlier this year to continue the Research and Promotion Program that has been in effect since 2015.
Della Deal, a Christmas tree grower who farms in Virginia’s Grayson County as well as in North Carolina has served on the Christmas Tree Promotion Board’s Research Committee for over four years said this as a positive move for Christmas tree growers and producers of other commodities as well.
Marsha Gray, the board’s interim executive director, said the group works to promote the industry and educate consumers and the public about the advantages of a fresh real Christmas tree.
This includes teaching them where Christmas trees come from and how to care for a fresh tree to have a safe and happy experience.
The USDA announced that 55 percent of those eligible growers voted in the referendum.
It said the Research and Promotion Board helps expand, maintain and develop markets for Christmas trees and carry out programs, plans and projects designed to provide maximum coverage.
“Research is how we all move forward together,” Deal said in a telephone interview from her Smoky Holler Tree Farm in North Carolina.
“Everything changes and research is needed.” she stressed. “We all want to be good stewards for the world and for our pocketbooks.”
She pointed to trade issues and pests from all over the world entering the United States as two things that need continued attention.
This means the Christmas tree industry and the rest of the agricultural community is constantly faced with the new challenges that insect and disease introduction bring to them.
“It takes years to find the best tools to mitigate disease and insect issues,” she said.
Research is not limited to solving problems, however.
Deal pointed out that much of the research in the industry is aimed at finding ways to grow a better Christmas tree that pleases the consumer.
She explained that the research is looking at Christmas tree genetics to improve needle retention in any Christmas tree species.
This kind of genetic research is not something that happens in a hurry, she maintained. It can take years. Finding ways to deal with insect pests may be more short term.
Discovering the means to control the pests and diseases not only helps the tree growers but other commodity producers.
Being sure Christmas trees are free of bugs just catching a ride can keep pests infecting other crops.
“All of us are farmers,” Deal said. “We are all in it together.”
She said serving on the research committee has been educational and exciting.
It has given her an opportunity to travel across the country and see how other people grow trees, noting both similarities and differences.
One of her duties is to learn from the growers what their needs are and how the researchers can help.
Both Deal and Gray pointed out that many people believe Christmas trees come out of forests and that part of their job is to educate the public by spreading the word that Christmas trees are grown and cared for on farms.
They said consumers need to know the trees harvested for Christmas are replaced on a regular basis.
The board has an annual budget of nearly $1 million for its promotional campaign, Gray said.
The board employs both an advertising agency and a public relations firm to tell the Christmas tree growers’ story.
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