North Carolina is the second largest Christmas tree producer in the U.S. and this year has been a near ideal growing season, especially in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Virginia is likewise among the top five Christmas tree growing states and recently put together a checkoff program via the state’s grower association to promote the use of fresh-cut Virginia Christmas trees.

Though the price for Christmas trees hasn’t come close to tracking the increase in price for a variety of row crops, demand remains good.

Sales of fresh-cut trees this Christmas season is projected to be down approximately five percent. Likewise, prices to the consumer are expected to be at or near a 10-year low.

The good news for Christmas tree growers is that sales of artificial trees is expected to drop 30-40 percent this year — a major reason for the upswing in demand for fresh trees.

North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler says, “We’ve had a good growing season and consumers will find a good, healthy selection and wide variety of sizes to choose from.”

Fraser fir is the dominant Christmas tree produced in North Carolina, where the elevation and climate in western counties create perfect growing conditions for the crop. North Carolina growers also produce con-color fir, blue spruce, red cedar, Leyland cypress, Carolina Sapphire and Blue Ice Arizona cypress and white pine trees.

By early November, North Carolina growers began harvesting and preparing trees for shipment across the country for sale at home improvement centers, grocery stores and other retail locations.

Most choose and cut operations opened Thanksgiving weekend across the western part of the state.

North Carolina’s 1,000 or so Christmas tree growers harvest approximately five million trees annually. The state’s Christmas tree farms range in size up to 1,000 acres.

In 2010, cash receipts alone topped $85 million, adding significantly to North Carolina economy.

The military is another significant part of the North Carolina economy and the state’s Christmas tree growers donate trees to military facilities around the country.  This year more than 1,000 trees will be shipped tothe Trees for Troops program.