By Dianna Stampfler
As the holiday centerpiece of a home, the Christmas tree is rooted in tradition. For generations, families have been loading their cars and heading out to one of Michigan’s nearly 700 farms, where acres of balsam, white pine, Frasier fir and other evergreens grow.
Each year, nearly three million trees are grown and harvested here — ranking the state among the top three in the country and generating more than $40 million for the state’s #2 industry – agriculture.
One of Michigan’s most historic growers was the Schuenemann brothers, who were also sailors of the “Christmas Tree Ship.” In the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, they would load up their schooners full of trees from the Upper Peninsula to sell in Chicago – often providing free trees to the city’s poorest residents in the true spirit of the holiday. In November, 1912, Schuenemann’s famous Rouse Simmons sank in the frigid waters of Lake Michigan – the entire crew of 16 was lost at sea. The ship’s legend and tradition are now carried on by the United States Coast Guard.
In 1984, Dutchman Tree Farms in Manton was chosen to supply the official tree to the White House, for President Ronald Reagan. That year, Tom and Debra Vander Weide personally delivered a 20-foot blue spruce to grace the Blue Room (one of eight trees in the house that year). As the largest grower in the state, Dutchman is one of only two Michigan suppliers to send trees to Washington DC over the years. The first was in 1974 when Betty Ford ordered a Concolor Fir from Michigan.
Just northeast of Cadillac, the small town of Lake City is the self-proclaimed Christmas Tree Capital of the Nation. In the 1960s, local families started plantations in the area after discovering that many tree varieties thrived in the sandy soils near the 2000-acre Lake Missaukee. The town today boasts more than 60 Christmas tree farms, spread out over 8000 acres.
Of course, with trees come other home accents – such as wreaths and garland. These fragrant natural decorations dress up mantles, front doors and banisters – turning homes into elegant showplaces for holiday entertaining.
For more on fresh cut Christmas trees, wreaths, garland and poinsettias, visit the Michigan Christmas Tree Association website at mcta.org.
Tree Picking Tips
- Gently grasp a branch and pull it toward you. Only a few needles should come off in your hand if the tree is fresh
- A few falling brown needles are common, but falling green needles warn that the tree is dry. Avoid trees with stiff needles that are losing their color.
Tree Care Tips
- When you get your tree home, cut ¼ to ½ inch off the end and put the tree into water immediately.
- The single most important thing you can do to keep your tree fresh is to WATER, WATER, WATER! A fresh cut tree may take up as much as a gallon of water on the first day and a quart or more on the following days.
- To avoid trying the tree out too quickly, display your tree in an area away from heat sources such as registers, radiators and fireplaces.
- Use newer model lights with in-line fuses to avoid overloading.
- Display your tree away from sources of fire or hear such as fireplaces and candles.
- Always turn off tree lights when away from home and before going to bed.
Destination Christmas Tree Farms
Butler Tree Farm, Dowagiac
(269) 782-4650; butlertrees.com
Candy Cane Christmas Tree Farm, Oxford
(248) 828-8899; candycanechristmastreefarm.com
Holtz Christmas Tree Plantation, Monroe
Huron Christmas Tree Farm, Huron Township
(734) 753-9288; huronchristmastreefarm.com
Juneau’s Christmas Trees & Reindeer Farm, Foster City
(906) 246-3750; christmastrees-reindeer.com
Porcupine Hollow Tree Nursery, Central Lake
(231) 544-6769; porkyfarm.com
Thompson’s Christmas Tree Farm, Ypsilanti
(734) 218-6573; thompsonschristmastreefarm.com
Santa’s Pride Christmas Tree Farm, Bruce Township
Western’s Tree Farm, Applegate
(810) 633-9411; westernstreefarm.com
Kluck Nursery, Saginaw
(989) 781-1650; klucknursery.com
Reprinted from the Winter, 2013 issue of Michigan BLUE Magazine.