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I’m dreaming of a green Christmas

Greg Lancaster, Kaitlyn Riley and Lynn Lokken
READY FOR HOLIDAYS: Alice in Dairyland Kaitlyn Riley (center) cut down Wisconsin’s first Christmas tree on Nov. 15 at Winterberry Christmas Trees in Green County. The tree was loaded onto the E85 SUV donated for her use by the Wisconsin Corn Growers. With Riley are Winterberry’s owner, Greg Lancaster, and Lynn Lokken, a member of the committee planning the 72nd Alice finals in Green County. Lokken painted the picture Riley is holding.
Alice in Dairyland: Make it a memorable holiday by cutting a tree at a Wisconsin tree farm.

By Kaitlyn Riley

The holiday season is filled with the colors of rainbow lights, silver bells, red stockings and, of course, green Christmas trees. With the crunch of snow under your feet and the fresh smell of pine in the air, memories made while finding the perfect tree at a Wisconsin farm can warm any spirit.

Wisconsin is a wonderland filled with all things agriculture. In fact, Wisconsin is home to nearly 870 Christmas tree farms that offer varieties such as balsam fir, Fraser fir, Scotch pine, white pine and white spruce. Each tree has unique characteristics that could mean the perfect match for your home.

Balsam firs have long-lasting needles. The dark green tree is known for keeping homes smelling fresh all Christmas season. The Fraser firs are a dark blue-green color with needles that have silver undersides. Scotch pines are known for holding tightly to their bright green needles. Scotch pines are the most common Christmas trees in the nation and can be easily replanted.

Those looking for a big holiday statement can find a white pine, the largest pine in the nation. The soft, flexible needles are blue-green in color. The white pine is also favorable to those who are sensitive to smells because it has little aroma. The white spruce is perfect for people like me who have too many ornaments; its short, stiff needles can handle a heavy load.

Although trees come in many colors, real Wisconsin Christmas trees are always “green.” Farmers plant up to three trees for each one that is harvested, keeping the land in green space. It can take as many as 15 years before a tree is ready for a home, but the average growing time is seven years. Tree farms are the perfect place for wildlife, birds, bees and more. Plus, real trees can be recycled, with their nutrients returning to the earth.

Making real trees part of your celebration is a gift not only for the environment, but also for Wisconsin’s economy. Each year, about 1.8 million Christmas trees are harvested for various purposes. More than 657,000 Christmas trees were sold in 2014, according to the USDA Census of Horticultural Specialties.


MORE THAN TREES: In addition to Christmas trees, more than 600,000 wreaths and garlands are made each year in Wisconsin. Those annual Christmas tree and wreath sales add up to $16.2 million.

Kicking off the season
I recently had the chance to kick off the holiday season by cutting Wisconsin’s first official Christmas tree myself! Winterberry Christmas Trees of Brooklyn in Green County were happy hosts for the celebration. They are one of many “choose-and-cut” tree farms across the state. Several of these farms uphold holiday heritage with visits from Santa, wagon rides, hot apple cider, specialty gifts and more. It was truly an honor to be part of the Christmas tradition in Green County, which will host the 72nd Alice in Dairyland finals next May.

In the season of many colors, I hope your holidays come to life with green trees and spectacular memories. Wisconsin’s Christmas tree farms are easy to find. Visit christmastrees-wi.org to find your perfect tree. May you have a merry green Christmas!

Riley is the 71st Alice in Dairyland.

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