It is now the busiest time of the year for local Christmas tree farmers. But many are concerned with national trends that show more people opting to buy artificial trees and trees sold by big-box stores that are grown out-of-state.
"It is not a pretty picture nationally," said Mary Jeanne Packer, Executive Director of the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of N.Y.
Sales of New York grown Christmas trees declined 66 percent between 2002 and 2012. While there are still 875 Christmas tree farms in New York State, that number is only about one-half what there use to be.
New York State is currently the 4th in the nation when it comes to the number of Christmas tree farms.
While state-wide tree farmers are now surviving, and in some cases even expanding, the association is hoping more farmers will take up growing the evergreen trees, which it says are fresher, safe, and environmentally better for everyone.
"One acre of Christmas trees can produce enough oxygen to support 18 people," said Ray Zywiczynski, from Country Pine Farms in Holland.
In an effort to get more people to purchase Christmas trees from local growers, the New York State Legislature has allocated $125,000 to allow for the purchase of more advertising. That money is already being used to purchase radio ads in Western New York. Plans are in the works to also create television and social media ads that would target the New York City area.
"We really need to do more to focus on the state's agriculture industry," said NYS Senator Patrick Gallivan.
Galivan is co-sponsoring legislation proposed by NYS Senator Rich Funke that would create a state sales tax-free weekend for the sale of state-grown evergreen products such as trees and wreaths.
"People are looking for discounts today - let's not kid ourselves. Why do you think they go to Walmart and other places? Because they are priced much lower. If we can get some assist here, maybe we can lower the price of our trees," added Ray Zywiczynski.
Growers emphasize that money earned through the sales of NYS-grown trees also supports the local economy through the purchase of fertilizer, costs paid for equipment and repairs, and the hiring of extra workers.
"Not only are you supporting the local farmer but you are getting a higher quality product," explained Mary Jeanne Packer.
If passed during the next session of the New York State Legislature, the "Go-Green Weekend" would take effect during the first weekend in December 2016.
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