Contact: Lynne Richmond
(BELVIDERE) – John Wyckoff knows how to grow a winning Christmas tree. The five-time grand champion of the New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers annual contest today hosted New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Charles M. Kuperus as he cut down a Christmas tree to herald the start of the choose and cut Christmas tree season in the state.
“Choose-and-cut trees are a part of our state’s overall agritourism economy of $57.5 million a year and a memorable family agricultural experience for the holiday season,” said Secretary Kuperus.
Senator Leonard Lance helped Kuperus cut down the tree that will be donated by the Wyckoffs to the United Presbyterian Church in Belvidere.
A Douglas fir from Wyckoff’s Tree Farm in Belvidere won the 2007 contest, held in August at the Hunterdon County 4-H Fair. Trees from the farm also were named Grand Champion in 1978, 1990, 1992, and 1999.
“Raising top quality Christmas trees involves sound agricultural practices and favorable weather,” said Wyckoff. “We work year-round on our trees from the time they are planted until they are harvested – seven to 10 years later. We are preserving New Jersey’s agricultural heritage and preserving open space. Watching families enjoy choosing their Christmas trees from our farm makes it all worthwhile.”
This is the 40th year the Wyckoffs are selling Christmas trees. The farm has been in their family since 1839 and John Wyckoff is the sixth generation to farm the land. His sons, John and Bill, as well as their families, help on the farm. Son John lives on the property and his children are the 8th generation raised on the farm. They have 2,000 trees available, including Douglas fir, Fraser fir, concolor fir and Norway spruce.
In an effort to promote the Christmas tree industry, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture created a television commercial this year, which is scheduled to begin airing this week and continue through December 15 on cable stations such as Family Channel, Nickelodeon, TNT and TBS during prime family viewing hours.
For the last two years, the Department aired public service announcements on cable television stations throughout New Jersey promoting Christmas tree safety. Those same announcements are being distributed to stations again this year.
The New Jersey State Board of Agriculture passed standards to allow Christmas trees last season to be marketed under the state brand Jersey Grown. Christmas tree tags displaying the Jersey Grown logo were distributed to Jersey Grown certified growers for placement on the trees so consumers could easily identify New Jersey-grown Christmas trees. Letters have been sent to growers again this year offering the same tags.
Finally, the Department’s web site hosts The Christmas Tree Growers Association’s annual choose and cut directory at www.jerseyfresh.nj.gov. Growers also are encouraged to add their farms to the newly created agritourism web site, www.visitnjfarms.org. There, they can list information about their farm, including items for sale, hours of operation, and directions, and post special events.
The 2002 U.S. Census of Agriculture ranked New Jersey seventh in the nation in the number of Christmas tree growers. Of New Jersey’s 9,924 farms, 1,167 were cut Christmas tree farms, covering 7,628 acres. Those New Jersey farmers provide more than 132,000 families with Christmas trees annually.
The New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers’ Association is a statewide organization of growers, professionals and industry leaders dedicated to the promotion and marketing of Christmas trees and related products. It was organized in 1950 and has 200 members throughout New Jersey.
The New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers’ Association suggests the following when selecting and caring for a Christmas tree:
- Dress accordingly when shopping for that perfect tree. Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes or boots for walking.
- Select a tree that best fits your needs. Consider your ceiling height as well as the weight of your ornaments when determining the size and type of tree you choose. Remember that in the field, the sky is the ceiling, making trees appear smaller than they actually are.
- Do a freshness test. Gently grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward you. Very few needles should come off. Shake or bounce the tree on its stump. An excessive amount of green needles shouldn’t fall to the ground. Some loss of interior brown, yellow or tan needles is normal.
- If you’re not going to decorate your tree right away, place it in a container of water and store the tree in a cool, shaded area, sheltered from the wind, such as in a garage.
- Before you bring your tree into the house, cut an inch from the stump. The fresh cut enables the tree to more readily take in water.
- Place the tree in a tree stand filled with one quart of water for every inch in diameter of the tree trunk. The average six-foot tree has a trunk with a four-inch diameter, meaning the tree stand should hold one gallon of water.
- Always keep the tree stand filled with water. Otherwise, a seal of dried sap will form over the cut stump and prevent the tree from absorbing any water. Fresh-cut trees absorb a pint to a quart of water each day. Check the water level daily and always keep it above the cut end of the tree.
- Keep your tree away from heat and draft sources like fireplaces, radiators and television sets. Be sure your light cords and connections are in good working order. Be sure to unplug lights before you go to bed or leave the house.
To locate a choose-and-cut farm near you, visit the Jersey Fresh website at www.jerseyfresh.nj.gov or the New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers’ Association’s website at www.njchristmastrees.org. For more information about Christmas trees, log on to the National Christmas Tree Association’s website at www.realchristmastrees.org.