Like so many North Carolina Christmas tree growers, Russell Estes first planted Christmas trees in 1979 as a hobby and to support his primary job as a golf course manager. Today, Peak Farms grows about 300,000 trees.

Winning the Grand Championship is just part of the whole experience of being selected to provide the official White House Christmas tree.

The competition is held in the summer and 8-9 foot tall trees are judged.

In October, White House staff personnel come to the winning farm and select the winning 18-19 foot tree. The winning tree is cut and provided to the White House shortly after Thanksgiving.

Not only does North Carolina lead the nation in the number of Christmas trees provided to the White House, the state is also the second leading producer of Christmas trees.

 North Carolina has 1,600 growers producing an estimated 50 million Fraser Fir Christmas trees growing on over 25,000 acres. Fraser Fir trees represent over 90 percent of all species grown in North Carolina.

Overall the green industry, including Christmas trees, produced about $709 million in farm income in 2011.

Agriculture is North Carolina’s largest industry, topping the next two largest (tourism and military) combined.

Greene notes the Real Christmas tree industry promotes local agriculture  and supports small, family owned businesses.

When deciding between a farm-grown live Christmas tree and an artificial tree, Greene stresses consumers should consider these ten factors:

• Real Christmas trees are plantation grown on American family farms, making an important economic contribution to many rural communities in the United States;

• Real Christmas trees absorb carbon dioxide and other harmful “greenhouse” gases and release fresh oxygen into the air;

• Real Christmas trees have a fragrance beyond compare;

• One acre of Christmas trees provides the daily oxygen requirement for 18 people. There are about 500,000 acres of Christmas trees in the United States;

• Young, fast-growing trees like Christmas trees release more oxygen than mature forest trees;

• For every Real Christmas tree harvested, another one is planted in its place to ensure a steady supply year after year. Christmas tree fields support turkey, quail, songbirds, rabbits and deer;

• When planted outside after the Holidays, balled and burlaped real Christmas trees temper winds, suppress loud sounds, filter dust, moderate temperature, and dissipate odors;

• Real Christmas trees are an all-American renewable, recyclable resource;

• Recycled Real Christmas trees are also used as wind and water barriers at beaches and river beds to fight sand and soil erosion;

• They protect our water supplies, and provide refuge for wildlife. When sunk in ponds, they provide excellent refuge and feeding areas for fish;

rroberson@farmpress.com