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Tree traditions

BREAKOUT

Tree care and safety tips

Display tree in a stand with adequate water.

Place tree in water as soon as possible.

Use a stand that fits the tree.

Make a fresh cut before putting the tree in the stand.

Place trees away from major sources of heat.

Do not overload electrical circuits.

Inspect lights to make sure they are not worn.

Turn off the lights when leaving the house or sleeping.

Source: National Christmas Tree Association

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In the northeastern corner of North Dakota, outside of Cavalier, people from all over the state venture out to find the perfect Christmas tree.

The Campbell Beach Farm and Nursery, owned by Shawn and Margaux Lindsay, is one of few in the state that offers "choose-and-cut" tree service.

The couple inherited the 5-acre farm from Margaux's father, Michael Kotchman, who died in 2014. This is the Lindsays' third season running the business, and demand is higher than ever.

"I was so shocked about how much of a market there is," Margaux Lindsay said.

Lindsay thinks the lack of other tree farms in the area has increased the demand at the Campbell Beach Farm. People have traveled from Minot and Bismarck to cut their own trees, she said.

Campbell Beach Farm is one of seven tree growers listed for the state by the North Dakota Forest Service, said Larry Kotchman, North Dakota State Forester. Most of these farms are in the northeastern and north central part of the state, he said.

The number of tree farms in North Dakota has decreased over the years, primarily because of competition from artificial trees, Kotchman said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Census, there were 10 tree farms in North Dakota in 2012, down from 12 farms in 2007.

The total number of acres in production has decreased from 446,996 acres in 2002 to 309,365 in 2012, according to the USDA Census of Agriculture.

A common misconception is that live Christmas trees are cut down from forests, not grown as crops, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. It is more environmentally friendly to use a natural agricultural crop and recycle it then to use a non-renewable artificial tree, the association says.

Kotchman said tree farms are a great opportunity for landowners with land that is not suitable for other crops. Growing trees can stabilize the soil, create a habitat for wildlife and create clean air, he said.

Lindsay said her father began the tree farm in the 1970s because he was looking for a business that would compliment his small grain operation and was always interested in trees and conservation.

The farm doesn't sell trees in bulk to other business for reselling, Lindsay said. When her father and uncle were in the business, that was what they focused on, but it is very labor intensive, she said. She said some people like to get their trees from a lot or store, but the "cut your own" is also popular.

"There's something about the experience of coming out with your family and doing it yourself," Lindsay said.

Lindsay said most of their advertising is done via word of mouth and on Facebook. They have also run a local radio ad and advertised through the Cavalier Chamber of Commerce, she said.

This year, the farm marketed the Saturday after Thanksgiving as "Green Saturday," the day to come get a tree. That day, the farm broke its record of number of trees sold in a day, Lindsay said.

Since inheriting the tree farm, they haven't been sure of what capacity they will keep it running, Lindsay said. The whole family pitches in to run the farm, which is really enjoyable, but a lot of work, she said. The family is still deciding if they are up to the challenge of meeting the demand.

According to a consumer survey conducted by the National Christmas Tree Association, 25.9 million live trees were purchased in 2015, about double the 12.5 million artificial trees purchased.

Jamestown residents who aren't up to traveling over 100 miles for a fresh Christmas tree have some local options.

Country Gardens Floral and Greenhouse and Menards both offer live trees in Jamestown. The Garden District does not sell Christmas trees, but it does have poinsettias, wreaths and winter containers.

Hundreds of Christmas trees hang from the ceiling in two greenhouses outside of Country Gardens Floral and Greenhouse. Shop owner Gretchen Barnick said she orders about 300 trees each year.

"Artificial is an option, but you don't get the same feel as you do with a fresh tree," Barnick said.

The shop's six varieties of trees come from a tree farm in Wisconsin, Barnick said. The Fraser fir is the most popular type of tree, Barnick said, but many people also choose the Balsam fir because of its smell. Barnick said the trees are 6 to 10 feet tall, and are priced based on variety and height.

"We pride ourselves on the quality and care," Barnick said.

A warehouse stores the trees and houses the tree shaker, which rids the trees of loose needles.

The shop also sprays wreaths and trees with fire retardant, mostly for businesses and churches, but also for some individuals, Barnick said.

Trees in public places must be sprayed with fire retardant and have a certificate to prove it, Jamestown Fire Chief Jim Reuther said.

About 0.12 percent of residential fires involve a real or artificial Christmas tree, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Reuther said it has been a long time since there has been a Christmas tree fire in town, but taking safety precautions is still important.

People should check tree lights for wear before putting them on the tree and use lights that have been laboratory tested, Reuther said.

When it comes to the decision of getting an artificial or real tree, both are rooted in the history of Christmas, and it's up to each individual to decide which suits his or her traditions best, said the American Christmas Tree Association.

About 65 percent of U.S. households display an artificial tree, according to a Nielsen Survey conducted by the American Christmas Tree Association.

Artificial trees cost an average of $78 and live trees cost an average of $46, however, most people plan to keep their artificial tree for six to 10 years, the survey found.

Live Christmas trees benefit the environment and are a renewable and recyclable source, says the National Christmas Tree Association.

As for the Lindsays, their customers range from people who have visited the farm for years to live tree first-timers.

"We get people saying they usually use an artificial tree but have always wanted to do this," Lindsay said. "It's fun in that way, to see the experiences people are having."

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