The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 3, 2012

‘Tis the season to choose a tree

Traditional evergreens' popularity up

Kathy Mellott
kmellott@tribdem.com

JOHNSTOWN — On Monday, 272 Christmas trees were shipped from Fleming’s Christmas Tree Farms in Indiana to military bases, a sure sign it may be time to start looking for the perfect tree to deck the halls closer to home.

With the biggest holiday of the year now less than three weeks away, the state’s Christmas tree

growers are hoping more of us let the artificial fir sit in the box and head off to the local farm, fire hall or retailer to pick up a live, fragrant tree.

“I think there is nothing better than a fresh Christmas tree,” J.D. Fleming, who with his wife, Cindy, owns and operates Fleming Christmas Tree Farms on Fleming Road, Indiana.

The Flemings operate one of the 1,200 commercial Christmas tree farms in Pennsylvania that raise all of the more than half-dozen evergreen varieties that constitute good trees.

Those farms account for just less than $14 million in annual sales, ranking the state fourth in overall Christmas tree sales with 1.2 million trees cut, said Mark O’Neill, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

A second-generation Christmas tree grower, Fleming, in the business since 1976, said live tree sales saw a significant slip 25 years ago, but many families have walked away from the artifical for a return to the smell and feel of a tree parents remember from childhood.

“People are starting to see a need for something real. They have a need to get back to family values, and a Christmas tree is the center of that for the Christmas season,” he said.

Getting that real tree does not have to include a trip to the farm, Fleming said. But it can be a memorable experience when the whole family loads into a vehicle and gets involved in choosing a tree.

If the family goes to the Fleming farm in Indiana or a second farm on Route 22, two miles east of New Alexandria, they can bring their own saw or use one of his.

They can go out into the woods to find the tree or purchase one already cut. If they like, they can even load it into the vehicle themselves, he said.

“We will let you do as much of it as you want to, or as little as you want. You can do it all,” Fleming said.

Tree shape is a personal preference, he said, but make sure it is a tree that looks fresh and the green needles are not falling off.

“What’s key is what you do with the tree when you get home,” he said.

Place it out of sun and wind, preferably in a garage, until it’s time to take the tree in the house.

Cut at least a half inch from the butt of the trunk to open the “waterway” and get it into fresh water within two hours.

Be ready to water a lot the first day or two, Fleming said, estimating the average tree will drink 11⁄2 to two gallons of water in the first 24 to 36 hours.

Fleming suggested refilling the water in the morning and evening, at least at first.

“If it’s allowed to go dry, the water passages dry up,” he said.

Bringing home the freshest tree possible is key, said Bob Statler, assistant chief of the Johnstown Fire Department.

“The needles should not be falling off, and then you have to keep the tree watered,” he said.

Statler’s advice goes a little further.

Before decorating the tree, check every light strand and look for anything that could cause a spark and ignite the tree.

If there is a question, pitch the lights and purchase new ones, Statler suggestd.

One last thought from Statler: Don’t overload the electric circuit.

As for Fleming and the trees for troops, it is the eighth year the public has donated money and trees have come from five growers in the area.

The trees go to military families.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.