Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree!
By Dana Goolsby
Tennessee Colony- The Texas Christmas tree farm industry has taken a few hard knocks in recent years, and the number of Texas Christmas tree growers has decreased drastically in recent years. Mr and Ms Trees Christmas Tree Farm, located west of Palestine, has managed to survive a recession as well as the historic 2011 drought, and still has plenty of Christmas spirit to spread around!
According to owners of the Mr and Ms Christmas Tree Farm, Rick and Michaelene Sparks, “The drought has been tough on every one. We started watering back in August so we would have quality trees for the season.”
Sparks also said the 2009 season was pretty tough but the industry rebounded in 2010. He contributes the rebound to Americans returning to traditional values and the need to make memories with their families.
“People are getting away from commercialized Christmases and getting back to family,” said Sparks.
Sparks said that his tree farm as well as other growers he is acquainted with all had a better year in 2010.
“Everyone did better than they expected. We ran out of fur trees in 2010 and had to order more,” said Sparks of the unanticipated increase in sales.
At one time there were over 500 Christmas tree farmers in Texas alone, but in recent years the number of farmers has dipped below 100 according to Sparks.
“Now there are between 115 and 120 Christmas tree farms in Texas,” said Sparks.
Sparks also explained the Texas Christmas tree industry, which began in 1977, was started by “mature” farmers who were ready for retirement within 15 to 20 years after starting a Christmas tree farm.
“After 20 or 30 years most of them were in their 70s or 80s. They really had no choice but to retire,” said Sparks.
Mr and Ms Trees is the only Christmas tree farm in Anderson County. Mr and Ms Trees began with the planting of Virginia Pines in 1997 on approximately 20 acres of family owned land. The pines are planted each January and harvested after four years in the ground.
The sparks employ high school age students around the holidays to work the harvest season. The Sparks not only offer local youth the opportunity to make extra cash over the holidays but the chance to take with them a valuable work experience.
“Having this opportunity to work gives kids work skills and the experience of dealing with the public. They all seem to like it. Younger siblings of kids who have worked here often come to work here when they are old enough,” said Sparks.
Every year Mr and Ms Trees donates multiple trees to different organizations in order to spread the Christmas spirit. The Sparks offer free Christmas trees to all of the local Texas Department of Corrections facilities. They also donate to restaurants, radio stations, as well as to area chambers.
Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in America. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. The legend says that while walking home one winter evening, Martin Luther was awed by the brilliance of the stars twinkling amid the evergreens. In an attempt to recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.
According to the Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association, Christmas tree farms in Texas produce 200,000 trees annually on 2,500 acres. Texas Christmas tree growers contribute $12,000,000 each year to the Texas economy.
Franklin Pierce, our 14th president, brought the Christmas tree tradition to the White House. President Calvin Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in 1923. Since 1966, the winner of the National Christmas Tree Association’s “Most Perfect Christmas Tree Contest” has presented a beautiful, fresh Christmas tree to the President and First Family. The tree is displayed in the Blue Room of the White House each year.
Prior to the 1950’s, most family Christmas trees came from the forest. Today over 90 percent of Christmas trees are plantation grown. The Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association estimates that in 2010 approximately 36 million U.S. families will cut Christmas trees. According to the association for every Christmas tree that is cut and harvested two to three seeds will be planted in its place.
The Christmas tree “choose and cut” experience is a holiday tradition every American family should share. The Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association encourages Texas families to start or renew their family traditions today.
Rick and Michaelene Sparks both agree that it is this time of the year that makes all of their hard work worthwhile.
“We appreciated and enjoyed everyone who comes out to the farm. The trees we have are healthy and there are plenty to choose from.”
For more information about Mr and Ms Tress Christmas Tree Farm log on to www.mrandmstrees.com.