Louisiana offers great Christmas trees

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 29, 2006

‘Tis the season.

Once the Thanksgiving dishes are cleared from the table, many Louisiana families turn their attention to Christmas – shopping for the perfect gift and holiday decorating. The tradition for a lot of families is to drive out to the country and select the perfect Christmas tree at a Louisiana choose-and-cut tree farm.

&#8220Our industry in Louisiana has some of the prettiest trees I’ve seen,” Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Bob Odom says. &#8220The Leyland Cypress and Carolina Sapphire are a couple you’ll find at most tree farms and there are other more exotic varieties grown in limited supply.

Although plenty of beautiful, shapely trees are available, Louisiana Christmas tree farms were impacted by the hurricanes last year and heavy rains in 2006.

&#8220Supporting the tree farms is helping the economy in your community. Times were tough last year and it continues to be that way for some today. A few farmers reported better than expected sales last season and others even outsold the prior year. It probably had something to do with the family aspect and getting back to a sense of normalcy during the holidays. But, it’s still important to continue to support the local growers this season and for years to come,” Odom says.

Fortunately for Louisiana families, there is a choose-and-cut tree farm within a short driving distance from most communities.

&#8220Although the industry has decreased in size over the years because it’s hard work growing these trees, if you want to choose and cut your own tree you’re not going to have to drive very far,” Odom says. &#8220Plus, a short drive out of town is a great way to spend time together as a family during the holidays. It’s refreshing to see families pile up in the car, a lot of times with their pets, too, and head out to select the perfect tree for their home.”

A list of known Louisiana choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms is available on the Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s Web site, www.ldaf.state.la.us. Check local newspapers and magazines for others.

Also available on the site are Christmas tree selection and care tips.

&#8220There are some important things to know before you select a tree and then once you get home with your tree,” Odom cautions. &#8220Size is important. Trees look a lot smaller in the field than in your home. You have to measure the space available for the tree before you head out shopping. Water is critical too. For fire safety reasons you have to water your tree regularly.”

According to information from the LSU AgCenter, there were 74 Christmas tree producers in Louisiana in 2005 with production valued at nearly $1 million.