State Christmas tree Web site links to farms, facts, fun

From Staff Reports

   NASHVILLE -- "The official Christmas season is short this year -- only four weeks, from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas Day," said Rob Beets, horticulture specialist with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.
   "Waste no time getting into the holiday spirit -- go straight to www.picktnproducts.org for all sorts of Christmas tree history, educational fun and games, and of course, a directory of farms across Tennessee to go to for your natural Christmas tree."
   "Just look for the picture of the Christmas tree and click on the 'Christmas Trees' banner," said Beets. In addition to a statewide listing of tree farms across the state, the Web page offers a link to the national Christmas tree site.
   "Among the things you'll find at this link are stories on where the president's tree is coming from this year," said Beets. "There are lesson plans on conifers, how trees grow, tree recycling, graphs and mapping, traditions and even writing poetry. There are also games and activities just for fun, but all related to trees.
   "Other links accessible through the national Christmas tree Web site include the popular 'How Stuff Works' and other teacher and student resources."
   The "Pick Tennessee Products" Web site offers tips on proper selection and care of natural trees, whether the trees are cut or balled and burlapped for post-holiday planting.
   "Tennessee Christmas tree farms are spread out across the state," said Beets. "The types of trees grown depend on the geography and climate of the region, from mountainous trees like firs and spruces in Upper East Tennessee to warm-weather wetland trees like pines and Leyland Cypress in West Tennessee. Tennessee Christmas tree farms range from large wholesale businesses with helicopter harvesting to small family 'choose and cut' farms."
   Christmas tree growers are consumer-friendly, said Beets, usually offering customers several ways to choose the perfect tree. Tree shoppers may wander through groves of uncut trees and cut their own, have trees cut for them, select a freshly cut tree on site at the farm or take home a live balled and burlapped tree.
   Aside from sentimental reasons, there are some pretty practical reasons to choose straight-off-the-farm Tennessee Christmas trees, said Beets: cost and quality. Buying direct from the grower eliminates transportation and middleman costs. Cutting out transportation time also means the customer is assured the freshest tree possible. Trees coming from out of the state must be cut well before Thanksgiving -- sometimes as early as October. The freshness of a Tennessee Christmas tree guarantees not only maximum fragrance and appearance but safety, as well.
   "Although each tree farm is different, they all want to provide customers with more than just a quality, homegrown tree to enhance your Tennessee Christmas celebration," said Beets. "They want to give you a great holiday experience, a tradition that will keep you coming back year after year."
   For more information, visit www.picktnproducts.org.