What is in this article?:
• Russell and Beau Estes accompanied an 18.5-foot Fraser fir tree grown on their Jefferson, N.C., farm to the White House and helped present the award-winning tree to Mrs. Obama.
• In August they won the honor of providing the tree by winning the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) Grand Championship.
RUSTY, left, and Beau Estes admire the North Carolina fir tree that now adorns the White House.
This is the first time in recent history and possibly ever that the same state provided Christmas trees for the White House Blue Room and for Blair House in the same year
Trees entered in the NCTA contest must fit into one of five species categories:
• True Fir;
A panel of judges, made up of long-time growers and past contest winners, select first, second and third-place winners in each category. Then, attendees to the annual NCTA convention and a panel of consumer judges vote for their favorite among the species finalists.
Those vote totals determined the Grand Champion and Reserve Champion trees, and the growers of those winning trees receive the honor of providing the Official White House Christmas tree and the Christmas tree for the residence of the vice-president.
“In order to qualify to compete in the NCTA contest you must first compete in a state or regional contest and win. The North Carolina Christmas Tree Association has its annual contest every September.
The Grand Champion ‘Fraser fir’ category winner and the first place “other species” winner then qualify to compete in the NCTA contest the following August,” says Jennifer Greene, executive director of the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association.
“The fact an American farmer gets to provide a Christmas tree from his family farm to be displayed in the White House indicates just how important farm-grown Christmas trees are to the Christmas traditions of our country,” says Cline Church, NCTA president and a Christmas tree grower from Fleetwood, N.C.
“Our whole industry is proud of Russell and Beau for showcasing our crop in the
most famous house in America,” Church adds.
“The fact that two growers were selected from North Carolina for such a prestigious honor speaks a lot about the quality trees that make up the state’s $85 million Christmas tree industry,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.
Russell Estes had won the national contest once before in 2008 as a co-winner, along with Jessie Davis of River Ridge Tree Farms in Crumpler, N.C.
This year he entered a tree from Peak Farms, the farm he co-owns with his son Beau.
“Winning this year is a different kind of exciting because this is an ‘all in the family’ type of farm,” said Russell Estes. “Both my son and daughter and all my grand-kids live here at Peak Farms, and that makes this business and winning the contest this year extra special,” he adds.