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Buy-local fervor expands to Christmas trees

By Staff | Dec 10, 2010

Jerry VanVacter, owner of Riverside Trees, of Duncombe, works with evergreen branches to make them in to roping for wreaths and garland.

DUNCOMBE – If you have yet to pick out your Christmas tree or are already thinking of next year, experts agree that buying a tree locally is the way to go.

Marsha Loux, value added ag specialist with the value added ag office at Iowa State Univerdity Extension said not only is it a good time for starting a family tradition by going for one’s own tree, but it is also good for the local economy.

“Buying your Christmas tree locally helps support local farmers and growers who grow those trees and in turn spend their earned money in your community,” said Loux.

Buying a locally grown Christmas tree, Loux said, also helps conserve energy by reducing the fossil fuels used to ship Christmas trees across the nation to large chain stores.

Not only is there something nostalgic about choosing and cutting one’s own Christmas tree, Loux said, trends are showing that people want to know where their food comes from and where their Christmas trees come from, as well.

“Knowing how your tree was raised, much like your food is important,”?said Loux. “There’s also some educational benefits. Kids can see a sustainable practice in action; but it also makes more sense economically.”

There has been an increase, Loux said, in direct-to-consumer-sales in agricultural production.

Jerry VanVacter, along with his wife Kelle, own and operate Riverside Trees, near Duncombe, and said more than having an economic impact, buying a Christmas tree from a local farm makes more of a positive environmental impact.

“It’s a green choice,” said VanVacter. “That’s the biggest reason to by a real tree.

“Most artificial trees are made in China and contain lead and they’re not biodegradable where real ones are.”

Trees used for Christmas, he said, are usually planted on the land that is not necessarily suitable for other crops, so planting and harvesting of those trees makes good use for marginal land.

The VanVacters took their first harvest off of the previously owned Christmas tree farm in 2000 and although their retail season only lasts just over a few weeks, running a Christmas tree farm is a year-around operation.

VanVacter said they will start planting trees around Easter time and weed control and mowing is done throughout the spring and summer.

Come July and August, he said they will sheer the trees to get them into a nice shape for a Christmas tree and after Halloween their wholesale wreath making for two organizations will begin.

The farm is open the Friday after Thanksgiving and is open until their Christmas tree inventory is depleted.

At Riverside Trees, VanVacter said one can choose and cut one’s own tree. Dead needles will be shaken out. The tree will be wrapped for ease of transporting and unloading.

The farm also offers tree stands, wreaths and garlands for sale.

The VanVacters had to bring in trees this year due to the severe winter last year which left their trees just about the only thing for deer to feed on all winter.

They still made an effort to buy locally with 150 trees coming from Carroll.

“They probably took around 4,000 trees so we need to start over,” said VanVacter. “Some might recover and the rest will be used for wreaths.”

So far, they have replanted 2,500 trees and are hoping either next year or the year after they will be be back in the “choosing and cutting,” business.

New to the farm this year was a doe named “Holly” and a buck named “Berry.”

VanVacter said that maybe by next year the two will be tamed enough for people to hand-feed them and maybe will even have a new friend, “Mistletoe.”

Contact Kriss Nelson at jknelson@frontiernet.net.

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