The Smell of Christmas: Wisconsin Christmas Trees
When I think of Christmas, I think of decorating the Christmas tree with my sisters. I can remember from an early age stringing popcorn and cranberries to make garland and sorting through ornaments. The smell and touch of a real Christmas tree sparks holiday memories, like running around a local Christmas tree farm to find the perfect tree. The holidays are a special time for families to celebrate the magic of the season and Wisconsin’s diverse agriculture industry.
Christmas trees play an important part in Wisconsin’s agriculture industry. Wisconsin has over 450 Christmas Tree growers and ranks 5th in the nation for Christmas Trees harvested. As of January 2020, there were approximately 7.26 million Christmas trees on Wisconsin horticulture operations to be cut and sold in future years.
On Saturday, November 27 I cut down the first official Christmas tree of the season at Hann's Tree Farm in Oregon, Wisconsin. This family-owned operation has 47 acres of trees to choose from and is located within Dane County, which is the host county for the 75th Alice in Dairyland finals.
Fresh Christmas trees are offered at ‘choose-and-cut tree farms across the state. These farms offer families a memorable experience that often becomes a tradition. In addition to finding and cutting down the perfect tree, many farms offer visits with Santa, wagon rides, hot apple cider, and specialty wreaths and bows. Cutting a fresh Wisconsin Christmas tree from one of Wisconsin’s tree farms allows Wisconsinites to enjoy a real tree and nature’s holiday gift.
Before a Christmas tree finds a home for the holidays, producers have nurtured seedlings to grow trees ready for harvest. For each real Christmas tree harvested, two to three seedlings are planted in its place and, on average, it takes seven to 15 years to grow a Christmas tree. The most popular Christmas tree varieties grown in Wisconsin are Balsam Fir, Fraser Fir, White Pine, and Scotch Pine.
The Balsam Fir is a short-needled tree that is native to Wisconsin and known for its dark-green color and pleasing fragrance.
The Fraser Fir is often referred to as the “Cadillac of trees.” These trees retain their short needles, are blue-green in color and have extremely strong branches that turn upward.
If you prefer long-needled pines, the White Pine has soft, long needles that are blue-green in color. White Pines are the largest pines in the United States. Although they have good needle retention, they are not recommended for heavy ornaments.
The Scotch Pine is a full, bushy tree with long, stiff needles. These bright green trees are the most popular pines grown and purchased in Wisconsin. The Scotch Pine has an excellent survival rate, is easy to replant, and will remain fresh throughout the holiday season.
While we often think of Christmas trees around the holidays, they provide many benefits to our environment all year long. These beautiful trees absorb carbon dioxide and, in return, release oxygen into the air. In fact, one acre of Christmas trees produces the daily oxygen intake for about 18 people. Additionally, they are often grown on land that would otherwise be subject to erosion if farmed with other crops and, unlike artificial trees, are 100% biodegradable. From bees and butterflies to bears and deer, tree farms are also providing a safe habitat for wildlife, birds, and insects.