Web site of the Winston-Salem Journal.

By Monte Mitchell


Published: August 12, 2010


A forest of Christmas trees was set up at the Benton Convention Center yesterday as more than 400 Christmas-tree growers, retailers and wholesalers began arriving for the 2010 National Christmas Tree Association and Trade Show.

The trade show gets under way this morning, with exhibitor displays for Christmas-tree products and services, and educational sessions about such subjects as grafting, managing vegetation, keeping the books, and using GPS on a farm.

It’s the first time that the industry’s national convention has been in North Carolina since 1998, when it was in Asheville.

Although the trade show isn’t open to the public, what goes on during these next few days will determine who provides the White House Christmas tree, and will help growers and sellers continue to provide the holiday centerpiece for millions of homes.

A tree contest will determine who provides the White House tree. The trees for the contest were set up yesterday, along with a gallery of trees showing decorating styles over the centuries. The convention’s theme celebrates the 500th anniversary of the first widely known decorated Christmas tree in Riga, Latvia, in 1510.

“The health of the industry is pretty solid overall,” said Rick Dungey, a spokesman for the National Christmas Tree Association. “Production has been steady, and consumer demand has been steady.”

A heartening trend to an industry that markets real trees instead of artificial ones is that people younger than 30 tend to buy a farm-grown tree.

“They want a traditional tree, and they don’t want to do something bad for the environment by buying a plastic tree from China,” Dungey said.

The N.C. Christmas Tree Association and Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association are welcoming the convention to Winston-Salem.

At Tanglewood Park in Clemmons tonight, the state association will be host to “A Taste of North Carolina,” which will offer North Carolina-style barbecue, and local wines and beers. Music will be provided by Jeff Little and Friends, including two-time national banjo champion Steve Lewis of Todd.

“We’re very excited to be able to showcase the state as a whole in all aspects of agriculture,” said Jennifer Greene, the executive director of the N.C. Christmas Tree Association.

Another highlight of the convention will come on the last day, with farm tours Saturday in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties in North Carolina, and in the Grayson Highlands of Virginia.

The North Carolina tours include three farms that have furnished Christmas trees for the White House — Hudler Carolina Tree Farm, Smokey Holler Tree Farm and Mistletoe Meadows — as well as choose-and-cut operations and farms where Fraser firs are king.

The Yates Christmas Tree Farm, which belongs to Harry and Janelle Yates in Watauga County, is a tour stop that will feature demonstrations that include grafting Fraser fir into other species of trees, and other management practices.

“We’re going to look at ground-cover application,” Harry Yates said.

“Clover is a great ground cover. It holds nitrogen, and it also helps suppress weeds.”