Christmas is a season of celebration and giving, except maybe for a few "Scrooges." All across the Northeast, agriculture's fourth season of agritourism draws millions – including a few governors – out into the countryside to buy trees and other seasonal products.
Last week, for instance, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin took saw in hand at Paine's Christmas Trees near Morrisville, Vt. He picked out his Christmas trees with a little help from owner Tom Paine and son Dan. For this governor, it's an annual tradition to visit a local tree grower to cut Christmas trees for the Statehouse and Pavilion Building, and encourage consumers to buy love, local Christmas trees..
There was no report on whether the governor actually put the saw to work. But the media got the message.
Massachusetts Ag Resources Commissioner Gregory Watson kicked off the holiday season by harvesting a Massachusetts-grown Christmas tree at the Vandervalk Tree Farm, Mendon, Mass. Watson used the event to encourage Massachusetts residents to buy locally-grown trees from one of the Commonwealth's 284 Christmas tree farms.
Besides being great family fun, Watson noted: "In addition to being the freshest trees possible, locally-grown Christmas trees are renewable. They're also recyclable, and buying one from a local farm is good for the local economy."
In New Jersey
State Ag Secretary Douglas Fisher took saw in hand to herald the tree-cutting season at Wyckoff's Christmas Tree Farm at Belvidere. Fisher also used the event to urge New Jersey residents to support families in need and the military during the holiday season.
"We encourage everyone to visit a Christmas tree farm this holiday season, support a local farmer and bring home a fresh, healthy New Jersey Grown tree," said Secretary Fisher. "With so many people hurting this year, we also ask people to remember those in need as well as our military families, either through the donation of a tree or a monetary donation to a local charity."
John Wyckoff said his family is donating 100 trees for Trees for Troops. Over the weekend, donated trees were loaded by New Jersey National Guard members and headed for Ft. Eustis Army Base in Virginia and the Coast Guard Center.
Christmas tree farms around New Jersey also will have receptacles where patrons may donate to Farmers Against Hunger, which gleans or collects New Jersey farmers' surplus produce and distributes to 7,000 people weekly during the growing season through 60 organizations, including soup kitchens, food pantries and the state's food banks.
"Through these charities, we're able to show appreciation for those in our community who might need a little boost, since we depend on people to patronize our farm to keep us in business keep New Jersey farms viable and growing," said Wyckoff. "Plus, what's a better event than going out and cutting the family tree, having quality family time and spending the day together?"
Almost 79,000 trees are cut in New Jersey each year. The state is ranked sixth in the nation in the number of Christmas tree growers, with 1,150 farms growing more than 6,000 acres of Christmas trees.