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History

The earliest recorded enjoyment of Christmas trees took place in the early 1500s in Ammerschweier, Germany. The tradition caught on so quickly that in 1539, in an attempt to protect the area’s wood resources, an ordinance was enacted preventing the cutting of trees grater that eight feet in height for use as Christmas trees. By the late 1600s, German immigrants had brought the tradition to the “New World.” By the first U.S. Census in 1790, one-third of Pennsylvania’s population was of German descent, which played a major role in spreading throughout the state the tradition of decorating a tree for Christmas. In 1851, an enterprising New Yorker hauled several loads of wilderness-cut trees to New York City, thus establishing the first Christmas tree market in the United States.1

As cutting outpaced regeneration, the distance trees were transported from forest to market became longer and longer. Finally, in 1901, the first Christmas tree farm in the United States was established in Mercer County, NJ.1 Soon other farmers were helping to fill the demand for Christmas trees, thus greatly reducing the over cutting of American forests. Cultural practices, which up to this time had only been applied to more traditional crops such as corn and grain, were now being applied to Christmas trees. Finding improved sources of seed became paramount, leading to the establishment, in 1938, of the first Christmas tree nursery, in Indiana County, PA. Christmas trees take seven to twelve years to mature, however, and genetic testing and advancement remain a slow and tedious process.

Soon thereafter, the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association (PCTGA) was founded in 1944 when a group of growers came together to discuss pest issues, marketing and industry conditions. To this day, PA growers continue to gather to learn how to create the best product possible. Pennsylvania also originated the practice of shearing Christmas trees when a farmer in Columbia County developed a method for shearing Scotch Pine that created a shapely, more eye-appealing tree. Today, the vast majority of Christmas trees grown in Pennsylvania, and throughout the United States are sheared annually.

Pennsylvania currently ranks second in the nation for the number of Christmas tree farms and ranks fourth in the nation in number of Christmas trees cut each year and acres in production. PA is home to over 1,200 farms covering nearly 35,000 acres that produce 1.2 million cut trees each year. These farms have more than $13.9 million in sales annually.2

 

1 Ann Kirk Davis, “The Wonderful World of Christmas Trees” First Edition, 1998, pp 4-5, 10-11, 17-21
2 2007 USDA Agricultural Census