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AGRICULTURE REPORT – December 4, 2001: Christmas Trees - 2001-12-03

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Many Americans are busy preparing for Christmas and the winter holiday season. Buying a Christmas tree is a holiday tradition for many Americans. One study found that almost eighty percent of American homes had a Christmas tree last year.

Christmas trees come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps the most famous is the huge Christmas tree near the White House in Washington, D-C.

The National Christmas Tree Association represents Christmas tree growers in the United States. It reports that almost forty percent of all Christmas trees in American homes are natural. The other sixty percent are artificial, or man-made, trees.

Many people believe that Christmas trees come from forests. In fact, most trees are carefully grown on farms. Farmers plant and harvest Christmas trees as a crop, similar to fruits or vegetables.

There are about fifteen-thousand Christmas tree farms in North America. There are Christmas tree farms in all fifty states and Canada. Currently, about four-hundred-thousand hectares of farmland is in production. The industry employs more than one-hundred-thousand people.

About thirty-three-million natural Christmas trees are sold in North America each year. It can take as many as fifteen years to grow a tree to a height of two meters. However, the average growing time is seven years.

Traditionally, farmers grow evergreen trees for Christmas trees. Scotch pine, white pine and Douglas fir are among the most popular. Evergreen trees produce cones. Most coniferous trees have both male and female cones. The female cones are called seed cones. They hold the seeds created by fertilization.

Farmers remove fertilized seeds from the seed cones and plant them. They grow into seedlings. Farmers care for the young trees until they are about three to five years old. Then farmers replant them in fields.

Farmers add fertilizer to the trees and remove unwanted plants. They cut the tops of the trees to control how fast the trees grow. Farmers cut other parts of the trees while they are growing. This gives the trees the traditional shape that people will like.

For every Christmas tree that a farmer cuts down, he plants two or three seedlings in its place. This year, farmers planted more than seventy-three-million tree seedlings.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by George Grow.