Friday, October 22, 2010

From farm to home

So last month I posted that we would be blogging about a specific tree going from a farm in New Hampshire to my house here in St. Louis. The idea is that it gives insight maybe into where trees come from in order to get to your living room. There are still a handful of misinformed people out there who think Christmas trees are just harvested from the wild. And, there are many people who don't realize that you can order a tree online.

So, to enlighten folks on these two subjects, Nigel Manley, the manager of a tree farm in New Hampshire, and I brainstormed at the Christmas tree convention this past summer. We weaved together the idea of blogging about a specific tree this year with plenty of images and video. You can see some older posts about it below.

I've purchased a tree online from Nigel's farm before, so I'm familiar with how they do it. Anyway, Nigel posted a video about our inanimate subject recently just following their first snowfall of the year. click here to watch the latest video. And stay tuned throughout this Autumn to watch the tree get harvested, boxed up, shipped to me, and put up in my living room.

The tree I ordered this year is a Balsam fir.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The "debate" that won't die

Interesting discussion with Chelsey this week about our Christmas tree myths page. Here is a sample:


From: Chelsey
Sent: Monday, October 18, 2010 4:06 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree Facts Page


Just so you know, I got on your site for information on real trees. I’ve always had a fake tree, and have never had a problem. However, since they’ve lately gotten more affordable, and we just bought our first home, I thought a real tree would be nice this year. Now I’m not sure because reading your “10 myths about real Christmas trees” piece was a real turn-off for me. You are incredibly derogative to “fake tree people”. Really?? Just state the great things about owning a real tree instead of insulting the very people that you are trying to convert. There are plenty of ways to say the same thing in a positive light. When your goal is to persuade someone, you want to convince them, not offend them. Left such a bad taste in my mouth that I think I am reconsidering my decision. Just FYI

Thanks for the feedback Chelsey. We’ve gotten some interesting and varied responses to that section from all over the world.

From: Chelsey
Sent: Monday, October 18, 2010 4:26 PM
To: Rick Dungey
Subject: RE: Christmas Tree Facts Page

You’re welcome. I work in advertising, and studied a lot in persuasion through college. And to persuade someone, you want to cater more toward them and give the benefits of the other view point, without “demeaning theirs”. It’s much more effective! Facts are always the best, without using too much personal interjection - not that you can’t have fun with it! If you cater to the people that already buy real trees, you won’t increase your business…which really is the whole point, right?? :)

Thanks for the response. Always nice to know when someone actually reads the “contact us” emails…

Yeppers, I’m certainly a real person. This will be my 13th season working for the Christmas tree association. One thing to keep in mind, NCTA is a non-profit association, and not a for-profit business. Our members of course are business owners. Our budget to fulfill our mission of promoting the use of farm-grown Christmas trees is certainly small, as many non-profits’ are. And certainly MUCH smaller than any fake tree companies’ marketing budgets. We do the best we can to do just what you suggest, which is to get facts to families so they can make informed decisions about a farm-grown tree versus a plastic tree. While I am glad to hear your take on the mythbusting page, I would steadfastly submit that all facts on the page are proven facts and are clearly distinguishable from any editorial writing on my part. It has clearly been effective too, as you can see from a fake tree company’s copy-cat site put up shortly after our myths page appeared.

It’s a struggle the tree farmers and retailers have been engaged in with plastic tree importers for almost 40 years now. Fake tree ads for years have included things like “real trees can burst into flames” and “buying an artificial tree saves forests” …totally false claims like that. Much of the feedback on the myths page has been in the vein of “it’s about time the farmers started fighting back”. …like I said, it’s been interesting.

Good luck in your search. I would recommend maybe a 1- year get a fake tree, and the next year get a farm-grown tree approach, so you can make a comparison and decide for the future. But I simply can’t in any capacity recommend using a plastic Christmas tree. My opinion is biased, and I make no bones about it.

Thanks Chelsey. And just to clarify, it's not "fake tree people" that bother me so much, it's the fake trees that bother me. What do you all think of the Christmas Tree Myths page?


or this?

Not much of a debate in my mind.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Well, the Trees for Troops program did not get the Pepsi Refresh grant in September, but it did make the top 100, so it rolls over into the October contest. Woohoo! That means you need to VOTE EVERY DAY the rest of the month.

Interesting news story this week about struggling plastic tree factories in China. Apparently they are struggling partly because they don’t want to pay their workers.

Little Cheer in China's Factories

In late summer, production lines across China's "world factory" usually crank up to meet a surge in Christmas orders. Activity this year, however, has been relatively modest on weak Western demand.

"The U.S. market has not come back and the European market is dropping," said Leona Lam, CEO of the toymaker firm Leconcepts, which does around $250 million of business annually. "I don't see a good Christmas this year for factories."

Lai Xiao Wen, who runs a 50-worker plastic Christmas tree plant, sees bleak times ahead as production costs and wages rise. "It's very tough," said Lai. "I want to change businesses."
Another maker of Christmas trees in Guangzhou noted a 30% rise in orders, but said it was proving tough to find skilled workers to manufacture more trees. "The only way to find more workers is to pay them a lot more," said Frank Shang of Pretty Xmas Tree Manufacturing, producer of 400,000 trees a year. "But we can't afford that."

A recent survey of 60 manufacturers by the Federation of Hong Kong Industries showed a third saying they could only withstand a wage increase of 5%. Wages have doubled in some places after minimum wage increases, spreading labor shortages and a spate of strikes at multinationals like Honda.
Source: Reuters

On a totally unrelated note, we got an email from Lesle about the essay contest (which unfortunately we no longer have). She writes:

My daughter is a senior in high school and was given the assignment from her English teacher to write an essay for a scholarship. She searched on line and found your contest. After turning in the assignment we learned you no longer offer this scholarship. As a parent who has always tried to install the holiday spirit I was thrilled to read her essay. I hope you can share it with others and it will inspire them to also create special family memories.

OK, I’m happy to share this essay written by Allise. Read it and find joy.

My whole childhood revolved around one holiday. Christmas is my mother's world, her cherished celebration, her admitted obsession, and her joyous occasion. December 25th and the surrounding weeks have always been special to me: a time for family, fun, and faith. What symbol is better for Christmas than a marvelously decorated natural fir tree sitting in the living room?

During the first week ofDecember in 1986, my parents picked out, cut down, and brought home a beautiful tree. The next day, my mother went into labor and gave birth to my older brother, Daniel. From that year, until 2005 our family cut down our own Douglas fir tree. A family tradition that continued for 20 years has always been a special trip to the Christmas tree farm in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. After buying a tree my mother immediately makes sure the entire family takes part in finding their ornaments and placing them on the tree.

Each Christmas, she buys us a special ornament to represent what we have done throughout the past year. A car for Daniel's 16th birthday, a glass blown cat for my first pet. Our family tree sits proudly in the living room. My collection of porcelain Barbies mingle with the superstitious German pickle. While Noah's ark rests next to a baby bootie from 1993. The lights illuminate the living room from dusk till dawn, a source of light both literally and in a figurative sense. The tree is a nightlight during midnight snacks and a lovely compliment to the glow of candles as we reminisce of Christmas' past after a traditional meal with family.

In my household, Christmas has always been a month long celebration as a time to enjoy the Christian faith which moves my soul. Our family Christmas tree has always reminded me ofthe peace that comforts me in times oftrouble, the hope I will always have in people, and the joy that comes with everlasting life through my faith in Jesus Christ. I have always loved coming home to see the tree glimmering in the living room.

A Christmas tree is more than a decoration to me. Yes, it is a place to stow presents until Christmas Eve, and yes, it is a lovely clubhouse for my pet cat, but it is so much more than that. It is a symbol of memories, family, and faith. Nothing could replace my childhood memories of searching out the perfect real tree.

Very nice Allise. You’ve inspired me. I hope you keep that spirit alive throughout your life and continue to share it with others.

On another totally unrelated note, someone emailed me this newspaper clipping. It’s a sad and funny, but really sad, illustration of just how disconnected some people are from agriculture. It doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas Trees, but it illustrates the point.