Watauga County Christmas Tree Association
The Watauga County Christmas Tree Association was established in 1980 to advance and advocate for the interests of Christmas tree farmers in the High Country, they were "the first mountain incorporated association to advance the interests of the nursery industry."
Backstory and Context
North Carolina is ranked second in the nation for Christmas tree production, making it an important part of the agricultural sector of the region. All farms in the county are family owned, and many offer "Cut and Choose" options, which helps support the tourism industry in the winter months.
Both Watauga County Christmas Tree Association (WCCTA) and the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association (NCCTA) state that Christmas tree farms are beneficial for the local environment for a number of reasons, namely being that they are a renewable resource. For every tree cut, farmers usually plant one to three in its place. The NCCTA claims “every acre of Christmas trees planted gives off enough oxygen to meet the needs of 18 people.” Both associations also point out that the trees are recyclable by a number of methods including sinking in ponds for fish shelter, burying at the coast to prevent sand dune erosion, and simply placing in a wooded area to decompose and provide refuge for songbirds.
Christmas tree farms also provide habitat for a variety of local fauna, but because they are usually located on steep hillsides, farmers must be careful in their growing techniques and pest management to help prevent soil erosion. This problem is solved by integrated pest management (IPM) techniques that include planting ground cover and early scouting of insect populations. Farms in the county work with several environmental agencies to ensure sustainable farming practices.
As a state with a large agriculture sector, Christmas tree farms are not immune to speculation about migrant workers. Several media outlets have written stories on various aspects of the migrant workforce in Christmas tree farming nationwide.
Of the trees grown in state, 99% are Fraser Fir, which are native to the Appalachian Mountains. The North Carolina Fraser Fir has been chosen as the White House Christmas tree 12 times, which is more than any other species. In 2005 it also became the official state Christmas Tree.