Forget the fake tree: Buy a fresh, farmer-grown Christmas tree

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I recently asked some "city" friends if they have a fake or real Christmas tree. Much to my surprise, the majority have fake Christmas trees. I then turned to social media and asked the same question on Twitter. My poll received 51 responses: 49 percent said they use "fake all the way," 27 percent said "real trees are for me," 12 percent set up both real and fake trees and 12 percent don't put up a Christmas tree.

Those who go the fake tree route said, "Fake trees are easier to just pull out of storage," and "Fake trees last longer for those who decorate before Thanksgiving." Another said, "A fake tree is always what our family did when I was growing up and it seems easier."

Pop culture trends demand labels that show how food is grown. When it comes to trees, though, it doesn't seem important to know where and how the trees were grown and by whom.

I'm in the minority because each year our family puts up a big, real Christmas tree. It's ironic to me that many of the same people who want fresh, local food do not care one bit about the origin of their Christmas tree. They don't eat it, so they don't think about supporting a fresh agricultural product grown by a real farmer who, depending on where you live, might be local. Because of my rural prairie address, I consider local to be relative. Local Christmas trees in our region come from Minnesota or Wisconsin.

Most often, Christmas trees grow in soil types that aren't suitable for growing food. Christmas trees are grown by farmers in fields — not in forests — as a renewable, natural product. Seedlings are replanted each year by tree farmers.

Your fresh, farmer-grown Christmas tree can be recycled after the holiday season. I have fond memories of my dad "recycling" our tree. He would put on his cross-country skis and take off across the frozen lake by my parent's farm, pulling the dried-out Christmas tree behind him. The lake would open in the spring, dropping the tree into the water to create a structure for fish. We dry our Christmas tree outside our home over the winter and cut it for firewood.

I live in the middle of the treeless prairie. Our fresh Christmas tree was purchased in our small town at 4 Seasons Floral this past week. I also purchased four wreaths and fresh greenery for decorating our porch.

I choose to go the fresh Christmas tree route because I want to support all types of farmers, which includes Christmas tree farmers as well as the small businesses that sell the trees.

Like the variety of Christmas trees and decorations in our homes this season, farmers don't all look the same. Farmers don't grow the same products or use the same farming methods. Thanks to the diversity of agriculture and abundance of choices in our country, I can lend my support to all kinds of farmers and the businesses who sell their products.

This year, I encourage you to start a new tradition — buy a real Christmas tree. Take your family to visit a tree farm or pick up a Christmas tree being sold by a business in your town. Leave the fake one in storage to collect dust or put it up as a secondary tree. I put up fake trees, a purple one and a pink one, in each of our daughter's bedrooms, full of their cherished ornaments. But the prize tree in our home is real, is grown by farmers and fills our home with a fresh pine scent until after Christmas.