Field Notes from Koch Agronomic Services

Wisconsin Christmas Tree Arrives At White House

Lizzy Schultz

First Lady Michelle Obama and her nephews with Dave and Mary Vander Velden at the White House

First Lady Michelle Obama and her nephews with Dave and Mary Vander Velden at the White House

While close to 350 million Christmas trees are growing on farms throughout the country, a Christmas tree from Wisconsin made its way to the White House Friday where it was presented to First Lady Michelle Obama. The 19-foot Balsam-Veitch fir was presented by Dave and Mary Vander Velden, owners of Whispering Pines Tree Farm in Oconto, Wisconsin.

The Vander Veldens won the National Christmas Tree Association’s annual contest this year, when a group of White House officials visited Whispering Pines and selected their tree as the contest’s top contender.

“You have to have a very good tree to win this competition,” said Vander Velden. “We’ve been doing research on different strains of trees to find one that would grow the best, and a lot of work goes into growing the trees. We even picked imperfect needles off of our winning tree with a tweezers before the competition.”

Christmas Trees are grown in all 50 states on approximately 350,000 acres of land. Wisconsin is a top producer of Christmas trees, along with Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. It takes an average of 16 years for a Christmas tree to grow to its full size from a seed, and each tree that is harvested must be replanted with anywhere from one to three new seeds.

Vander Velden explained that supporting local Christmas tree farms offers several environmental benefits to a community. Among his considerations are the fact that Christmas trees are a renewable resource, unlike plastic trees, and the ability of Christmas tree farms to preserve green space and improve the air quality of an area.

Dave tells us more about this tree and the Christmas tree farming business in this interview:
Interview with Dave Vander Velden, Whispering Pines

There was apparently a little change up in the trees at the last minute, however, and while the Vander Veldens did get to present the tree, the “official” White House Christmas Tree being displayed in the Blue Room this year is actually a 19 foot Douglas Fir donated by a tree farm in Pennsylvania, according to the official White House video of the presentation. Weather conditions in Wisconsin this fall reportedly impacted the fullness of the Vander Velden’s tree so a replacement had to be arranged to meet White House specifications, but the Wisconsin tree will still be displayed elsewhere in the White House.

Ag Group, Audio, Contest, Farming, Government

Comments 1

  1. We enjoyed the story about the tree from the Whispering Tree farm in Wisconsin, especially since our last name is also Vander Velden. Maybe we’re related!

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