Deck the halls with a Wisconsin Christmas tree this season. As the No. 6 state in the nation for Christmas tree production, Wisconsin harvests almost 1.8 million trees each year. Around 1,150 farms with about 33,500 acres in production work to produce the seasonal staple, with 70 percent of those farms being less than 20 acres. Annually, the industry contributes $12.5 million in sales revenue to Wisconsin’s economy.
Diane Chapman, president of the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association, says that buying a real Christmas tree for the holiday season helps the state’s environment and economy. “Real trees are recyclable and sustainable. Plastic trees end up in landfills,” she says. “Christmas trees are also grown on local farms, and the money stays local.”
Chapman adds that for her, the best reason to buy a real tree is the family traditions that come with selecting and decorating the tree.
Doing more than just providing a fresh product, Wisconsin Christmas tree farmers also show their charitable side with the Trees for Troops program.
The program began in 2005 as a partnership between the Christmas tree industry and FedEx to provide real Christmas trees to U.S. soldiers. Since it started, the program has delivered more than 122,000 trees for free. Wisconsin’s growers have been a part of the action since the beginning, and each year, collection spots are set up so they can bring their donated trees to load into FedEx trucks.
Along with providing a sense of tradition and charity, Wisconsin Christmas tree growers also take pride in providing a healthy, quality product. Chapman says inspectors from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection come to check for gypsy moths and pine shoot beetles, helping to stop the pests. For growers that ship out of state, fields are inspected, and farmers can include a certificate of pest-free authentication when they ship the tree.
And Christmas trees aren’t the only thing growing on these Wisconsin tree farms. Innovative business ideas are sprouting too, as the industry continues to change.
“Christmas tree farming in Wisconsin is going from large wholesale farmers to smaller choose-and-cut farms,” Chapman says. “Many farms are doing a wonderful job of turning into agritourism spots with gift shops, sleigh rides and more to make picking out the tree a fun day, and a great memory.”