A tree has long been a Christmas tradition
Published: December 5, 2012
Even though we now have artificial trees to choose from, in varying heights, many prefer the real ones that are often grown on tree farms. In fact, 98 percent of the Christmas trees used are grown on tree farms.
All told, there are more than 12,000 Christmas tree growers in the U.S. Although Christmas trees take six to 10 years to mature, 93 percent of the trees are eventually recycled through community programs. On the other hand, artificial trees, 80 percent of which are manufactured in China, take centuries to break down in a landfill. A greener choice is clearly a potted tree or a freshly-cut tree from a tree farm.
Many tree farms offer patrons the opportunity to choose their own tree, and also experience other holiday festivities such as hayrides and a visit with Santa.
One option is the Santa's Christmas Tree Forest, located in Eustis, where families can enjoy a full day of activities.
"Families cannot only pick a tree together, but they also can have fun riding the zip line, enjoying a hayride, bouncing on the bounce pillow, touring the Crazy Christmas Maze, jumping in the haystack, riding the kiddie reindeer cart rides, visiting the farm animals in the petting zoo, and much more," said Jack Ewing, owner of the family-owned forest.
At the forest, you can choose a freshly cut tree, or you can enjoy the choose-and-cut option where you board a hayride and choose from several varieties of trees. You are provided with a saw to cut it down with and a measuring pole to help you select one with the right height.
Also on the premises is a concession stand and a gift store, and even Santa himself shows up sometimes on the weekends. The 33-acre forest is replanted every year with about 3,000 new seedlings, so the forest is always re-growing. Potted trees also are available.
Santa's Christmas Tree Forest also is a supporter of the Trees for Troops program, which is spearheaded by the National Christmas Tree Association's Christmas SPIRIT Foundation. They deliver Christmas trees to soldiers and their families across the United States and abroad. You can show your appreciation to military members and their families by purchasing a fresh-cut tree to be donated to a military family.
Another option for finding that perfect tree is by taking a trip to the family-owned Hydro Harvest Farms, in Ruskin. The farm offers freshly-picked and cut trees, as well as potted trees.
"The children also love the fact that when they come to pick out their Christmas tree, they get to see Santa," said John and Terrie Lawson, the Farms' owners.
Santa makes his appearance on certain weekends and enjoys photo ops with children.
"Santa sometimes recognizes those children who have been to the farm over the holidays in year's past," said the Lawsons, who encourages a baby's first Christmas to include a potted tree to plant and watch grow throughout the years, as it makes for a great memory. The farm also is a U-Pick farm with fresh seasonal veggies and strawberries. Additionally, they offer a garden store with hydroponic garden supplies and delicious jams, preserves, syrups, butters, dressings.
Long & Scott Farms, in Mount Dora, also offers pre-cut trees, and decorations, including poinsettias. Santa also makes a photo-op appearance on certain weekends. While you're there, you also can purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from the Country Market, enjoy breakfast or lunch in the Country Café, and try Scott's Maze Adventures, which includes a jump pillow, playground, hayrides, and more. (Maze is open until December 16).
You can find other options of where to go for your Christmas tree, and enjoy other family fun at: http://www.pickyourownchristmastree.org/FLxmastrees.php
If you go:
Santa's Christmas Tree Forest
35317 Huff Road, Eustis
Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. (Closed Mondays. Closed for the season on Dec. 22.)
Tickets are $2 each. Many activities cost one ticket.
Free hayride with purchase of a Christmas tree.
Santa's schedule: Call for dates and times of Santa's appearance.
Hydro Harvest Farms
1101 Shell Point Road E., Ruskin
(813) 645-6574 or (941) 915-7208
Santa's schedule: This Saturday and Sunday and Dec. 22-23, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Call to confirm.
Long & Scott Farms
26216 C.R. 448A, Mount Dora
Santa's schedule: Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (through Dec. 16). Call to confirm.