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For Immediate Release: December 1, 2004 Contact:

Lynne Richmond

(BETHLEHEM TOWNSHIP) – Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus today helped usher in the Christmas tree-selling season in New Jersey by cutting down a tree at a prize-winning Hunterdon County Christmas tree farm.

“For many New Jersey families, an outing to a cut-your-own Christmas tree farm during the holidaySecretary Cuts Tree season to hunt for the perfect, fresh Christmas tree is a time-honored tradition,” said Secretary Kuperus. “Nothing compares to the look and smell of a fresh-cut Christmas tree grown right here in the Garden State.”

Secretary Kuperus cut down the Concolor Fir tree at Black Oak Farm in Bethlehem Township, Hunterdon County. Farm owner Robert Housedorf was this year’s winner of the New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers’ Association’s annual competition for the best Christmas tree grown in the state for his Norway Spruce. This is the third time in 12 years he has won the contest’s best-in-show award.

Housedorf has grown Christmas trees on his nine-acre farm since 1958. Housedorf sells about 600 to 800 trees a season.

“Selling Christmas trees has allowed me to meet a lot of people and share in their family traditions,” said Housedorf. “Every year it’s like seeing old friends – we have third generation customers coming to cut their Christmas trees.”

The Christmas tree industry is a significant part of New Jersey’s diverse agriculture. The 2002 U.S. Census of Agriculture ranked New Jersey seventh in the nation in the number of Christmas tree growers. Of New Jersey’s 9,924 farms, 1,167 were cut Christmas tree farms, covering 7,628 acres. Those New Jersey farmers provide more than 132,000 families with Christmas trees annually.

New Jersey has a place in Christmas tree history. In 1901, the first Christmas tree farm was begun with the planting of 25,000 Norway spruce near Trenton. These trees were harvested in 1908 and sold for $1.00 each.

“New Jersey has a rich and proud agricultural heritage that includes the growing of Christmas trees, a part of our diverse agriculture in the Garden State,” said Secretary Kuperus. “It’s gratifying to know that families from New Jersey and even beyond our borders enjoy fresh-cut-from-the-Garden-State Christmas trees and experience visiting our farms as part of their holiday traditions.”

Black Oak Farm donated the tree cut down by Secretary Kuperus to Bethlehem Township for use in its municipal building.

The New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers’ Association is a state organization of growers, professionals and industry leaders dedicated to the promotion and marketing of Christmas trees and related products. It was organized in 1950 and has 200 members throughout New Jersey.

The New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers’ Association suggests the following when selecting and caring for your Christmas tree:

Dress accordingly when shopping for that perfect tree. Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes or boots for walking.

Select a tree that best fits your needs. Consider your ceiling height as well as the weight of your ornaments when determining the size and type of tree you choose. Remember that in the field, the sky is the ceiling, making trees appear smaller than they actually are.

Do a freshness test. Gently grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward you. Very few needles should come off. Shake or bounce the tree on its stump. An excessive amount of green needles shouldn’t fall to the ground. Some loss of interior brown needles is normal.

If you’re not going to decorate your tree right away, place it in a container of water and store the tree in a cool, shaded area, sheltered from the wind, such as in a garage.

Before you bring your tree into the house, cut an inch from the stump. The fresh cut enables the tree to more readily take in water.

Place the tree in a tree stand filled with one quart of water for every inch in diameter of the tree trunk. The average six-foot tree has a trunk with a four-inch diameter, meaning the tree stand should hold one gallon of water.

Always keep the tree stand filled with water. Otherwise, a seal of dried sap will form over the cut stump and prevent the tree from absorbing any water. Fresh-cut trees absorb a pint to a quart of water each day. Check the water level daily and always keep it above the cut end of the tree.

Keep your tree away from heat and draft sources like fireplaces, radiators and television sets. Be sure your light cords and connections are in good working order. Be sure to unplug lights before you go to bed or leave the house.

To locate a choose-and-cut farm near you, visit the Jersey Fresh website at www.jerseyfresh.nj.gov or the New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers’ Association’s website at www.njchristmastrees.org. For more information about Christmas trees, log on to the National Christmas Tree Association’s website at www.realchristmastrees.org.