Buying an Iowa Christmas Tree - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Buying an Iowa Christmas Tree

By Phil Prazan

pprazan@myabc5.com

@philprazan

The Ritland's launch a mission.  All eight of them search for the perfect Christmas tree.

The Christmas tree farm outside Maxwell turns your holiday ideas into an outdoor activity. They say this is what makes a real tree special - the family quest.

"You get to come back and you say 'Oh yeah, remember that year that the baby was little," said Sandra Hunter. "It's a memory I guess."

Hunter, the owner of the Christmas tree farm sells the experience.

As a board member for the Iowa Christmas Tree Growers Association, she says the number of choose and cut farms are on the decline.

From 200 farms a few years ago, numbers now total around 100. According to the National Association, from 2002 to 2007, numbers are down 31 percent.

"We work together, a lot of the tree growers," Hunter said. "I've sent people to other tree farms if I didn't have what they wanted but the artificial tree is our greatest competitor."

This year, Iowa's Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey, is advocating  a real, Iowa grown Christmas tree.

"Our kids have grown up doing this," Northey said. "They feel different about a tree. When they saw a tree on the farm, they picked it out, they brought it home, they decorated it and it just adds something more to the season I think."

The million dollar industry grows around 40,000 trees each year.

He touts not just the product, but the experience.

"These trees have been planted, they've been cared for, they've been trimmed to make sure they're the right shape people are looking for," Northey said.

That's what brought Mike Robertson and Sarah Brown to search for their own tree.

"It's a good way to support local business," the couple said.

It's the first in their new home. That's exactly the target audience Sandra wants to reach.

"It's something that I think is important, to have that family tradition," she said.

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