NEWS

Christmas tree at the center of many traditions

Michelle Stangler
Correspondent
Each year the Christmas tree in Wisconsin State Capitol is decorated by handmade ornaments contributed by students. This year a Balsam fir from Meyer’s Castle Tree Farm in Medford, Wis. will be on display.

While the cost of many goods including Christmas trees are rising, yearly traditions old and new still provide much cheer this holiday season.

For many families picking a real Christmas tree and decorate it together is a cherished tradition. A survey from trees.com shows a 7% increase in the number of Americans who planned to buy a real tree this year compared to last year.

“During the past few years there has been a higher demand for live trees,” said Greg Hann, promotion director of the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association and owner of Hann’s Christmas Farm in Oregon.

The survey polled 1,250 people who celebrate Christmas in the U.S. to determine how inflation has impacted the purchase of a tree this year. In 2022, shoppers were expected to pay 10 to 15% more than last year due to many input costs rising, including pesticide and herbicides costs, which have nearly tripled over the previous years.

“The demand is very high,” said Gary Meyer of Meyer’s Castle Tree Farm in Medford, Wis. “The prices go up when demand is high because there is such a tree shortage throughout the U.S.”

The farm supplies Christmas trees for wholesalers and distributors as well as private buyers. From shipping trees to Delaware and all the way to Texas, Meyer’s answers calls from all over the U.S.. This season, he sold out already in August. For the past three years, Meyer has turned down over 70 calls because he couldn’t keep up with the demand.

Meyer says it is a privilege for him to be part of many family and event traditions. The farm has had trees on display in the White House and most recently provided a 30-foot Balsam fir tree (for the second time) to be displayed in the rotunda inside the State Capitol in Madison.

The towering tree symbolizes an industry-wide contribution of around $50 million to the state’s economy. Currently Wisconsin is the fifth largest Christmas tree-growing state, according to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.

The theme for this year's state tree at the Capitol is “Wisconsin Waters”. In a letter sent to students and educators, Gov. Tony Evers said, “When it comes to our waterways, we’ve got a lot to celebrate – and that means we have a lot to protect, too!” The tree is annually decorated by contributed handmade ornaments from students. This year students were encouraged to contribute ornaments celebrating what Wisconsin’s waterways mean to them.

After losing their mother to cancer, sisters Kara Kasten-Olson, left, and Krista Peterson, joined forces to create Inspiration Acres in Slinger to honor her memory. The duo's pop-up tree lot business provided many holiday hands-on experiences for families.

Sister-duo launches new tradition

Sisters Kara Kasten-Olson and Krista Peterson launched a new tradition three years ago when they opened Inspiration Acres, a Christmas tree lot and artisan market in Slinger, Wisconsin.

The sister-duo's pop-up business has grown steadily since 2020. This year, Kasten-Olson says they sold approximately 250 Christmas trees, an increase over previous years.

By the end of the second weekend, Kasten-Olson said they were almost sold out with only a few trees left on the lot before the final weekend. She believes the pandemic rejuvenated the overall market for real Christmas trees.

Without offering a u-cut experience yet, the sisters wanted to provide an experience for shoppers beyond pre-cut trees. Throughout their three weekend run, the business offered many family friendly activities, which their own children enjoyed.

While its still a fairly new tradition for them, but sisters expect to grow the business by adding an on-farm experience with land they recently purchased, which will likely involve planting trees and adding more responsibility to their lives. However, the sisters hope to connect their children back to their own experience growing up on a dairy farm.

The sisters want their children to enjoy the connection they had to agriculture while growing up. Helping to create wreaths, gnomes and many other products from the trees are from left, Redi Olson, Kayleigh Olson, Violet Bushweiler and Nora Peterson.

“It’s a new place for them to explore, so they are sometimes helpful, and sometimes it’s a bit more chaotic,” said Kasten-Olson, recalling the kids efforts at assisting with pruning and shearing this summer.

Caring for your tree

There is a lot of effort to maintain live trees and then marketing them to the public. And when a shopper chooses a real tree, there is the business of maintaining that tree throughout the holiday season. According to a trees.com survey, 53% of respondents said they anticipated using an artificial tree this year.

Gwyneth Ferguson, who lives in an apartment in the Madison area, said she and her roommates opted against buying a tree since they head home for the holidays. She adds that having pets in the home made it more difficult if the family were to have a real tree.

Although she grew up with an artificial tree, the family has embraced a new tradition. Five years ago her grandparents placed a real tree in an outdoor gazebo that they purchased from a tree farm. So while the family celebrates around the indoor artificial tree, they enjoy the beauty of the real tree outdoors.

After the decorations come down, real trees can be recycled into mulch to be used on trails or gardens. Additionally, growers use the mulch around seedlings to preserve moisture and reduce weed competition, according to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.

No matter upon your family traditions, and the Christmas tree it may include, it’s a joining of old and new ways to celebrate this time of the year.