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Christmas a Jolly Season for Tree Farmers

Millions of Americans go out and buy a tree, but others wait for their tree to come to them: they order from the Internet or a catalog. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Tall or short. Fat or thin. Real or plastic, or metal. Whatever the choice, two thousand million dollars worth of Christmas trees were sold last year in the United States.

Christmastime in the city brings forests of trees already cut and waiting to be sold. But some people like to drive to tree farms.

Others wait for their tree to come to them. They order one from the pages of a catalog or on the Internet.

Some say the easiest thing of all is to buy a manmade tree with Christmas lights already on it. No falling needles to have to clean up.

The University of Illinois Extension service says in two thousand two, artificial trees outnumbered real ones in American homes more than two to one. One-third of homes had no tree.

The National Christmas Tree Association says thirty-three million real trees were sold last year, compared to nine million artificial ones. Artificial trees generally cost more, but they can be re-used. Most natural trees are cut up and recycled, but some people buy trees that can be planted.

Most Christmas trees are now grown on farms instead of in forests. Twenty-one thousand tree farmers in the United States grow Christmas trees on more than one hundred eighty thousand hectares. Oregon was the leading producer last year.

The Illinois Extension says the trees take seven to ten years to grow. The most popular pines include Scotch, Virginia and white. Other big sellers are Fraser, balsam and Douglas firs.

Twenty-two percent of people who bought real trees last year chose them at a farm. Two percent of those people cut the trees themselves.

The next most popular places were big stores like Wal-Mart and Home Depot. Groups like the Boy Scouts also sell Christmas trees.

But some people pay nothing for theirs. They steal it.

Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, has many pretty evergreens. Some years ago, a university employee found a way to keep them there. A month before Christmas, workers treated them with "pink ugly mix."

It contains water, hydrated lime, a tree protectant and red food color. The bright color starts to disappear after about a month. It can take longer, however. Cornell decided not to use the mix this year, but the idea has spread.

Some places protect their trees another way. The University of Nebraska at Lincoln uses a mixture made with fox urine. The trees smell fine in the cold air, but not in a warm home.

And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I'm Steve Ember.