NC Christmas Tree Farms Go Red and "Green" for the Holiday
SPARTA, N.C. - The smell of pine and trails of needles will make their way into thousands of North Carolina homes this weekend, and a growing number of families are looking for trees that are green inside and out.
At least 11 Christmas tree farms across the state are growing organic and "low-spray" trees. After years of taking this natural approach, tree farmer Douglas Murphy of Sparta is in the process of getting his trees certified as organic, and said it's all about finding natural solutions to growing a great crop.
"That's really what I work toward," he said. "I try to work for that balance of producing a good tree, and then again, letting the natural predators like preying mantis do their job."
As with many other agricultural crops, most tree farms employ the use of pesticides, some of which are dangerous to workers and the water supply, according to groups such as Toxic Free NC.
The state's Christmas tree industry ranks second in the nation, generating more than $75 million annually.
Fawn Pattison, executive director of Toxic Free NC, said people - even when they choose to buy organic food - often forget to consider the chemicals that may be used in the production of their Christmas trees.
"You don't eat Christmas trees, so I think that health issue is much less present in people's minds," she said. "But it is a big industrial, agricultural crop, and so the impacts on the environment are just as real as any other agricultural crop."
For Murphy, growing organic trees also is a business decision.
"I'm getting calls from all over the United States. There is a market out there," he said. "I think it's somewhat of a niche market, but I think it's a necessary market. I think there's people who are really wanting to buy a really good, premium tree that has been grown organically."
Consumers can expect to pay slightly more for an organic or low-spray tree.
More information about pesticide-free and organic trees is online at toxicfreeNC.org.