Though today's economy may result in fewer presents this year, most homes will still enjoy the centuries-old tradition of a Christmas tree. There are several factors to be considered when choosing the right tree, and local growers and distributors hope you will make what they consider to be the right choice.
"The most important thing is that people buy a real tree no matter where it's from, because that supports the economy and it's good for the ecology," said Carl Forbes. "Artificial trees are made from plastic, they're made abroad and they're not biodegradable."
Carl and his wife, Judy, and daughter, Dixie, own and operate Dixieland Tree Farm in Irving. They've been selling trees for about 12 years.
OBSERVER Photos by Jacki Comello
Tuscany Meats and Delis has pre-cut trees available.
Helping the economy and environment are great reasons to buy a real tree, but they're not the only reason.
"I love the smell of the tree - it reminds me of Christmas," Perrysburg resident Peggy Watkins said.
Sandy Chesbro of Silver Creek offered a similar response. "It's what we had when we were growing up and artificial ones are so plain, and then you have to store them."
In the categories of scent and tradition, real trees seem to win hands down, and many treasured Christmas memories center around a Douglas fir or Blue Spruce.
"We had a wonderful tradition when my daughters were young," explained Westfield resident and teacher Denise Williams. "They insisted that we buy pine trees that were potted so that they could be planted after Christmas and I have some wonderful spruce around the house because of that."
Selecting that perfect tree is more than just a task for many families.
"Going out and choosing the tree is a family event," Denise Haag of Silver Creek said. "Finding the best one brings us joy."
Chautauqua County offers tree shoppers many options for variety, price and particulars, like pre-cut or cut your own. For those who plan to visit a nursery, it is a good idea to call ahead to make sure they're not sold out.
M&R Greenhouse in Sheridan had just a handful of trees left by mid-week.
"We got cleaned out quick," employee Mary Elizabeth Dewey said. M&R also carries other holiday accessories. "We do poinsettias, fresh evergreen wreaths, and fresh flowers and centerpieces for Christmas."
Tuscany Meats and Deli in Fredonia offers pre-cut trees as well, with prices ranging from around $29 to $69. Service includes trimming and loading.
"We'll trim the bottom a little bit so that when they do get it home, it will absorb the water," employee Mike Gombar said.
A cut of at least a quarter-inch is very important because sap forms on the bottom of pre-cut trees, preventing them from "drinking" water. A well-watered tree makes for a happy - or at least healthy - tree.
"A tip for first-time buyers - if you buy your tree early so that you have a good selection, keep it outside, it will stay fresh for weeks," Williams said. "I learned that from my mom, who was a florist for years ... also, keep it watered, far away from any type of heat source and secure it, as the cat will sleep in it."
A tree can absorb from one pint to one gallon of water a day and the water should never drop below the fresh cut. It is advisable to check the water level each day.
For those who want the experience of cutting down a live tree, Bear Lake Tree Farm in Stockton has much to offer and business has been good so far this season.
"It's been busy, but it's been extremely laborsome because of the snow we've had up here," owner Emery Masiker said.
Services at Bear Lake Tree Farm include cutting the tree, baling it, loading it and tying it down. Masiker even offers tree delivery.
Masiker has been in the business for more than 20 years. Shoppers can choose from varieties including Blue Spruce and several types of Firs. Prices vary based on the size and kind and start at $25. Some of his Grand Firs are a towering 14 feet.
"They are absolutely perfect," he said. "I started planting 25 years ago and some of them have taken that long to grow."
Some shoppers are partial to one variety of trees, while others just look for certain characteristics.
"We try to get long needles for fullness," Haag said.
This year's most popular tree at Dixieland Tree Farm has been the Concolor Fir.
"It smells like citrus and it has excellent needle retention," Forbes said.
Shoppers can choose any tree from his farm for $30 and they can even have their tree "mechanically shaken" to remove loose needles and debris. On weekends, families can ride through the farm in a wagon pulled by a tractor.
"One thing I love most about this business is you see American families at their best," Judy Forbes said. "They come with their children, their sleds, their dogs. They're in a festive mood, they go out together and it's a real family thing."
Both Carl and Judy are retired teachers. "This keeps us with children and families."
One final tip before loading the family in the vehicle and heading off to make another memory, "Dress warm and wear boots," Haag recommended.
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