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Live Christmas trees making comeback with younger generations

Live Christmas trees making comeback with younger generations

December 8th, 2013 in News

Dick Maurer, left, and Walt Shull, both volunteers at the Optimist Tree Lot on the corner of Washington and Broadway streets, keep busy throughout the day with this year's delivery. They drill holes into the bottoms of the trees to set them on stands so customers can look at the tree all the way around it.

Photo by Julie Smith

They come in all shapes and sizes, pre-lit, fiber-optic, Charlie Brown-sized, real and fake. No matter what its characteristics, a tree is often at the core of many people's Christmas displays. Although some opt for the no-mess, no-smell box-it-up type of Christmas tree, according to the Missouri Christmas Tree Association, there is a resurgence back to the natural product.

Teresa Meier, secretary and member of the association, said younger generations have been seeking the real deal.

"We've gone through a generation that had artificial trees, and now their kids want to use the real and natural product instead of the fake plastic tree," Meier said.

A Christmas tree farmer herself, Meier said the change has been within the past five years, with new customers searching each year. Benefits to a real tree include the agricultural impact, as well as an environmental impact.

"The good thing about a real tree that we stress is that probably at least 93 percent of real trees get recycled," Meier explained. Real trees are re-used in streams and ponds, or used for wood chips.

"It's a U.S. agricultural product grown here in the U.S.," she said.

In Jefferson City, there are many places to buy Christmas trees. Commercial retailers such as Walmart, Lowe's, Westlake Ace Hardware, Menards and Gerbes have trees available, as well as local garden centers. For many Jefferson Citians though, it is the lot on the corner of Dunklin and Broadway where they find that perfectly shaped holiday staple.

The Optimist Club of Jefferson City has been setting up shop each December on the lawn of what used to be the Broadway School for more than 50 years. Club treasurer and past president Walt Shull said he recalls the Christmas trees being sold there when he was just in junior high. Shull has been working the lot himself for 12 years.

"This is probably the best overall group of trees we've had in at least 10 years," Shull said. "We're really proud of what we've got this year."

The Optimist Club's annual tree stand is a family tradition for many, Shull said, having just sold a tree to a couple who said they've been stopping by for a purchase the past 38 years.

Opening the day after Thanksgiving, the Optimist members stick around until the last tree is sold. With Thanksgiving a little later this year than last, Shull said the club still ordered the same number of trees. They have trees ranging from four to 12 feet tall, including Scotch Pine, Fraser Fir and Balsam Fir trees, purchased from Canada and Michigan.

This year, one of the members came up with a new tradition to add to the experience. The bottom slice of the tree trunks has been kept and branded with an Optimist Club logo, including the year, to be given away with the purchase of each tree. The lot also has its signature tree stands that are "guaranteed" to make any tree stand up straight.

Each year the money raised from sales is used to fund several projects throughout the year.

"All proceeds go back to the youth of Jefferson City," Shull said.

The Optimist Club uses the approximate $15,000 it raises with the tree sales to run the W.H.A.L.E. program, the Pinewood Derby, to give dictionaries to every fourth-grader in Cole County, to sponsor project graduations, Boys' and Girls' State, Special Olympics, the DARE program, and many more.

Green all around

Each year Christmas tree sales in America account for approximately $1 billion.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, trees are grown in all 50 states, and Americans purchased 24.5 million farm-grown trees in 2012.

Missouri is ranked number 16 in Christmas tree production, with farms ranging in size from one to 100 acres. There are 38 farms that are a part of the Missouri Christmas Tree Association, but at least double that number of other farms in Missouri, association secretary Teresa Meier said.


If you're one of the millions who've purchased a live Christmas tree this year, follow these tips for care and recycling.

• Trees are thirsty! They drink up to two gallons of water per day. Be sure to check the water level daily and supply fresh water as needed.

• Be sure the tree is well supported in a water-holding stand and is away from fireplaces, radiators, TV sets and other sources of heat. Their elements can prematurely dry your tree.

• Avoid using combustible decorations. Do not use lights with worn or frayed cords and never use lighted candles. Lights should be off when the house is unattended and when you retire each evening.

• Trees can be recycled for wildlife cover, whether in ponds, fields or forests. They can also be recycled into mulch to be used as ground cover and on walkways or paths.