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AGRICULTURE REPORT — Christmas Trees - 2003-12-15

Broadcast: December 16, 2003

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Many people do not think of trees as a crop. But Christmas trees are a crop just like any other. In the United States alone, people last year bought more than one-thousand-million dollars worth of Christmas trees.

The traditional tree for the holiday is a fir, spruce or pine. These stay green all year. Evergreens have thin needles instead of leaves. This prevents the loss of water during dry or cold periods. This quality makes evergreens the perfect choice for use. They can stay green for many weeks, even after being cut.

Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest, is the biggest grower of Christmas trees in the United States. Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are also major growers. There are more than fifteen-thousand tree farms in the United States and Canada. More than four-hundred-thousand hectares of Christmas trees are planted.

The trees take an average of seven years until they are ready for harvest. Up to five thousand trees can be grown on a single hectare. Every year, more than seventy-million Christmas trees are planted. Growers plant at least two new trees for every one they harvest.

The Agriculture Department says eighty percent of homes in the United States have some kind of Christmas tree. Unlike other crops, Christmas trees have a competitor made of plastic. They never turn brown, and can be used from year to year. In nineteen-eighty-nine, sales of natural trees and artificial trees were equal. By two-thousand, however, sixty-one percent of the trees sold were plastic.

The number of real Christmas trees sold has decreased in recent years. Fewer hectares are being planted in Canada. But the price of Christmas trees has continued to increase. The average tree costs about thirty-six dollars.

Poinsettia plants are increasingly popular at Christmas. But sales are small compared to trees.

The tradition of the Christmas tree is said to have begun in Germany hundreds of years ago. People put fruits and nuts, paper flowers and other objects on the tree to make it more beautiful. German settlers brought the tradition to America in the middle of the eighteen-hundreds. At the time, people cut trees from forests. Over time, Christmas tree farming developed and grew into an industry.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. This is Steve Ember.