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Buy local, go green at Wilson County Christmas tree farms

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By BEN DUDLEYThe Wilson Post

When you choose a natural Christmas tree from a local farm, you do the planet a favor — and you give yourself a holiday treat, too. Christmas tree farms grow a completely renewable and recyclable resource which contains no petroleum products and leaves a very small carbon footprint. 

Christmas trees are often grown on soil that doesn't support other crops, and their root systems serve to stabilize soil, protect area water quality and provide refuge for wildlife.

Lots of people don’t think about where plastics—and therefore artificial trees-- come from. Plastic is made with petroleum products. Lead, an ingredient in PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic and other metals, are also important parts of an artificial tree.

Fake trees don’t biodegrade, and chances are they’ve traveled a long way, leaving a huge carbon footprint to get to the store or your home. About 85 percent of them start in China, but they’ll end up sitting in our local landfills for centuries.

Volunteer Tree Farm in Lebanon has been in business for 12 years with owners Ron and Mary Claiborne and Gwen Bates selling Christmas trees. It is actually a Century Farm and was homesteaded in 1867 by Mary’s great-great-grandfather.

They planted their first tree in 1992 and began selling in 1997 since the trees take around five years to mature to a height suitable to cut. The farm grows Virginia Pine, White Pine, Leyland Cypress, and Canaan Fir trees that sell for $5 per foot starting at $20 for 4 foot tall trees.

The 44-acre farm has 16 acres set aside for nearly 5,000 Christmas trees. Mary said they sell anywhere from 900 to 1,000 trees every year.

“In 2007, we had a bad year because of the drought and didn’t sell very many,” Mary said. “We were actually closed in 2008 as the dry weather got the best of us, but we are back open this year and looking forward to a productive season.”

Volunteer Tree Farm is located at 825 Academy Road and is open half a day on Fridays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

“We open on the Friday after Thanksgiving and will stay open until the only trees left are too small to cut,” Mary said.

Ron Claiborne and Peyton Bates, Mary’s brother, were partners in the business until Bates passed away in 2004 from lung cancer. Bates wife, Gwen, took over his share of the business.

They also make and sell wreaths for $20 each and have free hot chocolate, hot tea and candy canes for their guests.

Rhonda & Chris’ TreeLand is the place for you and your family to choose and cut your Christmas tree which has become an annual family tradition for many.

The TreeLand is located in Watertown on a 60 acre farm nestled in a valley boarded by two streams and a great view of the hills.

Chris Leauber and his wife Rhonda manage the TreeLand. Chris has a BS degree in Forestry and many years of experience. The first Christmas tree was planted in 1997. At present about 5,000 Christmas trees of various types and sizes are growing over approximately 14 acres.

Approximately 1,000 trees are available for sale. The majority of the trees available this year are Virginia Pine. In the future, White Pine, Leyland Cypress, and Canaan Fir trees will be available.

Trees are priced at $30 up to 6 feet, $35 from 6-7 feet, $40 from 7-8 feet, $45 from 8-9 feet, $50 from 9-10 feet, and $60 for 10 feet and up. This price includes tax, shaking loose needles and bagging branches.

After the holidays you can take your natural tree to a local site to be turned into mulch for area trails. Some people also like to place their old trees in their ponds or favorite fishing spots to serve as fish habitats. No matter what you do with it, it’s completely biodegradable.

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