News and Events

NC Fraser Fir in White House for 9th Time

    Glorious white lilies, crystal spheres and light-catching garlands accented this 2005’s official White House Christmas tree. The theme: “All Things Bright and Beautiful”. The 18-foot Fraser fir was presented to President and Mrs. Bush by Earl, Betsy, Buddy and Meg Deal from the Smokey Holler Tree Farm in Laurel Springs, North Carolina. The Deals won this honor by being named the 2005 National Grand Champion Growers by the National Christmas Tree Association. Since the beginning of the program established by the National Christmas Tree Association in 1966, a North Carolina tree has won the competition nine times and received the honor of being displayed in the Blue Room of the White House – this is more times than any other state. This is the top honor for any Christmas tree grower and Earl Deal stated that he has been waiting 30 years for this to happen. The Blue Room Christmas Tree was handpicked by White House Chief Usher Gary Walters and Grounds Foreman Mike Lawn on October 20, 2005. The tree was cut in late November and sent to Washington, D.C. The White House staff also selected two beautiful North Carolina Fraser Fir Christmas Trees for the White House Oval Office and the Bush family’s private residence. “The last time a Christmas tree from North Carolina was displayed in the White House was in 1997,” Gary Walters said. “This beautiful Fraser fir from the Deal family is the perfect tree to continue this long-standing White House tradition.” An active member of both NCTA and the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association for more than 30 years, Earl credits both associations with providing him with many learning opportunities that have contributed to his success. “We had tagged this one hoping it would be the one picked,” Earl Deal said, referring to the Fraser fir selected as the 2005 Blue Room Tree. “This is a dream come true. I think every Christmas tree grower hopes that they will someday provide a tree to the White House, but it’s still hard to believe that it will ever happen to you.” Achieving this honor was no easy feat for the Deals. In order to be eligible to enter the National Contest, they first had to compete in the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association competition. The Deals’ Fraser fir then competed against 22 other entries at the national competition in Lake Harmony, Penn., in order to earn the opportunity to present the Blue Room Tree for display in the White House. But the family agrees that it was worth all the time and effort involved. “There is no higher honor in this business,” Earl said. Earl first began planting Christmas Trees as a hobby in Blowing Rock in 1972 with his cousin and college roommate. At a NC Christmas Tree Association meeting later that year, they met a gentleman wanting to sell a stand of trees in Laurel Springs. Looking at these trees in a very dense fog, they thought the trees looked great and a deal was made. When the sun came out, those trees looked a little worse than they had on that foggy day back in the hollow – thus the name Smokey Holler. At the time, he was employed with the Department of Wood and Paper Science at North Carolina State University, while Betsy taught with the Wake County School System. For a number of years, the Deal family commuted from their home in Raleigh to the farm in Laurel Springs on weekends and vacations to care for the trees. Upon the couple’s retirement, they became permanent residents of Laurel Spring and full-time Christmas tree growers. The Christmas trees grown at Smokey Holler Tree Farm are sold wholesale to retailers along the East Coast, from Miami to Long Island, and across the Midwest. In addition, the family sells wreaths, garlands and roping; operates retail lots in the Raleigh-Durham area; and runs a Choose & Cut Christmas Tree farm on part of their property. The couple’s son, Buddy, helps manage the farm operations, while their daughter, Meg, serves as the certified public accountant for the business and helps out during harvest time. Over the years Smokey Holler has branched out to not only grow trees such as Fraser fir, White pine, Blue spruce, Concolor fir, Norway spruce, and Canaan fir, but they also do wreaths and roping to utilize low grade trees. Both Earl and Buddy emphasize that they branched out so as not to compromise the quality of the fresh Christmas trees from their farm. The Deal motto is displayed in their office: “Quality is in watching the details” and the family believes that if they take care of the details, the quality will come. Betsy states that Earl teaches by example and demands hard work. Either he or Buddy is in the field daily with the crew. They actively participate and work with the crew in overseeing trees. Earl sees a large advantage in the fact that Buddy speaks Spanish fluently and can converse easily with the crew. Why all the working together? Earl states that his vision for the farm is to have the Deal “signature on their trees” and to have pride in the end product. The presentation of the Blue Room Christmas Tree to the Mrs. Bush at the White House took place on Monday, Nov. 28, 2005. The tree was set up later that day and decorated by the White House Floral Department staff and volunteers. The Deal family was invited to return later in the afternoon to the White House to help decorate the tree and see it on display in the Blue Room. “This whole experience has been extremely humbling for our family,” Earl said. “We feel that we are not only representing our farm but also the entire Christmas tree industry and we are so grateful for this…

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Previous White House Winners

  Year Winner(s) County 1971 Kermit Johnson Avery County 1973 Homer & Bruner Sides Alleghany County 1982 Hal & Sarah Johnson Ashe County 1984 Hal & Sarah Johnson Ashe County 1990 R. Bruce & Michael Lacey Avery County 1993 Wayne Ayers Mitchell County Year Winner(s) County 1995 Ron Hudler & Danny Dollar Ashe County 1997 Sanford Fishel Ashe County 2005 Earl, Betsy, & Buddy Deal Alleghany County 2007 Joe Freeman Ashe County 2008 Jessie Davis & Rusty Estes Ashe County 2012 Rusty & Beau Estes Ashe County  …

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NC Tree Picked to be White House Christmas Tree

NC Tree Picked to be White House Christmas Tree By Chris Dyches Published November 19, 2012   ASHE COUNTY, NC (WBTV) -A tree grown in North Carolina will deck the halls of the White House this year. The 19-foot Fraser fir Peak Farms in Jefferson was picked in early October and was harvested Saturday. Peak Farms is the farm of 2012 National Christmas Tree Association Grand Champion winners Rusty and Beau Estes The tree will be presented to first lady Michelle Obama on Friday morning in Washington. It will then be displayed in the Blue Room, during the holidays. Members of the National Christmas Tree Association have presented the official White House Christmas Tree for display in the Blue Room each year since 1966. Trees from Cool Springs Nursery in Banner Elk were also chosen for the vice president’s home. “This is the first time the White House tree and vice president’s tree have come from the same state,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “It speaks volumes about the quality of trees available in North Carolina.” Troxler said the Tarheel State ranks second in the nation in Christmas tree production….

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White House Officials Choose Christmas Tree

White House Officials Choose Christmas Tree By James Howell Published October 5, 2012   White House officials met with Beau and Rusty Estes at Peak Farms on Wednesday morning to officially select the Christmas tree that will decorate the White House Blue Room for the holiday season. “I’m looking forward to seeing it (the tree) decorated in the White House Blue Room,” said Beau Estes, the co-owner of Peak Farms. Peak Farms was chosen to send a tree to the White House by winning last year’s National Tree Association contest held in California. The Estes family also won the honor of sending a tree to the White House in 2008. Jeff Owen, the area’s Christmas tree specialist from N.C. State University, said the White House’s representatives chose from just a few options that had already been selected. Owen also said the White House officials basically knew which tree would be selected beforehand, and Wednesday’s event was held for the media. The White House’s representatives selected the tree based on, among other things, the size of the trunk, the tree’s symmetry, and the tree’s height and width. After seeing each option, the three representatives conferred with each other to reach a decision. The White House representatives eventually selected a Fraser Fir measuring 18.5 feet tall. This is the perfect height to reach the ceiling of the Blue Room, according to Travis Birdsell, the extension agent for agriculture. Birdsell said the selected tree was born from a seed dating back to 1990, making the tree 22 years old. Birdsell also said the tree was planted in 1995. After the tree was selected, Dale Haney, the superintendent of the White House’s grounds, placed a ceremonial bow on the tree. Afterwards, the White House’s representatives and the Estes family gathered around the tree to answer questions and pose for photos. According to Beau Estes, the entire Estes family will be making a trip to the White House to deliver the tree on Nov. 23, one day after Thanksgiving. Beau said it would be a nice way to spend Thanksgiving with his family. Until its delivery on Nov. 23, the tree will remain at Peak Farms, under the care of the Estes family. Rusty Estes, Beau’s father and fellow owner of Peak Farms, said “we’re going to keep it (the tree) well protected.” The event attracted several people from the community, including Ashe County Manager Pat Mitchell and West Jefferson Town Manager Brantley Price. Other White House officials included Angella Reid, the chief usher of the White House, and Jim Adams, the supervisory horticulturalist for the White House….

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One perfect Ashe County Fraser fir is headed to the White House

One perfect Ashe County Fraser fir is headed to the White House By Monte Mitchell Published October 3, 2012 for the Winston-Salem Journal   The team from the White House moved through an Ashe County Christmas tree farm Wednesday morning looking for the perfect tree to grace the Blue Room. “This is a nice full tree,” said Dale Haney, superintendent of the White House grounds, as he started looking through stands of trees on Peak Farms, owned by Rusty Estes and his son Beau, about 8 miles east of Jefferson. “Man, the color’s good, too,” said Jim Adams, supervisory horticulturist at the White House and a National Park Service employee. “Can you smell it?” Adams asked. “That’ll bring Christmas into the White House.” “Every tree looks almost perfect,” Haney said. It’s highly competitive to be picked to supply the White House Christmas tree. In August, growers across the nation picked out their best trees, cut them down and brought them to the National Christmas Tree Association’s 2012 National Christmas Tree Contest in Missouri. The contest trees are about 6-to-8 feet tall. That’s not nearly tall enough for the White House tree, but shows the quality of trees the grower is capable of raising. The winner earns the right to host a visit from the White House, with a team picking a tree from the farm. There’s a lot of theatricality to it. The White House team, which had visited the farm privately on Tuesday, talked aloud about the attributes of the trees for television cameras as they walked the farm on Wednesday. But the suspense was real. A crowd of about 100 people tagged along, and they didn’t know and the Estes family didn’t know which tree would be picked. There are about 35,000 trees on this 70-acre farm. The White House tree needed to have nice, full branches and a pleasing shape. It had to be tall enough so it could be trimmed to 18½ feet to fit beneath the Blue Room ceiling. Having a Christmas tree picked for the White House is usually a once-in-a-career thing for a Christmas tree grower, the defining event the family looks back on all their lives. But it’s actually the second time Rusty Estes has supplied the White House tree. He and partner Jessie Davis and their River Ridge Tree Farms in Creston supplied the White House tree for President Bush in 2008. This will be the 12th time that North Carolina has supplied the White House tree, more than any other state since the contests started in 1966. “We have North Carolina Fraser fir and it’s native to the mountains,” said Jennifer Greene, executive director of the N.C. Christmas Tree Association. “The needles last a long time. It has a very fragrant aroma and a dark color to the needles. That’s what makes Fraser firs so special.” Rusty Estes said the publicity of having the White House tree is good for North Carolina, and particularly this part of the mountains. “Just in Ashe County, we’ve had seven national winners and our state has had 12,” he said. “If you were looking at statistics and you were a person looking to buy a Christmas tree in the United States, you’d say ‘We better go to Ashe County.’ “…

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Ashe County farmer will supply White House with Christmas tree

Ashe County farmer will supply White House with Christmas tree By John Hinton Published August 24, 2012 for Winston-Salem Journal   The National Christmas Tree Association has awarded the title of grand champion to an Ashe County farmer and his son for growing a blue spruce tree, giving them the honor of presenting the official White House Christmas Tree for 2012. Russell and Beau Estes, owners of Peak Farms in Jefferson, will offer a Fraser fir to first lady Michelle Obama in December, the association said in a statement. “It’s just the highest honor I can get,” Russell Estes said. “Words can’t describe it. It’s not only good for our farm, but it is good for all of the farmers in Ashe County.” This isn’t the first time Russell Estes has won the honor. In 2008, before he started his own farm, he and business partner Jessie Davis, the owner of River Ridge Tree Farms in Ashe County, presented a 20-foot Fraser fir as the official White House Christmas tree to first lady Laura Bush. Cline Church, the association’s president, said the Christmas tree industry is proud of Russell and Beau Estes. “The fact that an American farmer gets to provide a Christmas tree from his family farm to be displayed in the White House indicates just how important a farm-grown Christmas tree is to the traditions of our country,” Church said. Paul Smith, owner of Cool Springs Nursery in Banner Elk, was selected as the reserve champion with a Fraser fir. Reserve champion winners traditionally have provided a tree to the vice president’s home. Smith said he was happy to receive the award. “It’s an indication that we are good growers, and we know how to produce good specimens,” Smith said. The trees were selected for the recognition Aug. 10 at the association annual convention and trade show in Sacramento, Calif….

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