Iowa is hosting its first-ever convention of the National Christmas Tree Association this week. Mark Steelhammer, the group’s president and a tree farmer in Washington state, says the Des Moines event is attracting some 400 growers from all across the U.S. and four other countries.
Steelhammer says more than 50 companies are exhibiting their wares in the trade show while there are 15 hours of educational workshops on topics including marketing, business management and production. The convention also includes tours of several Iowa tree farms in: Madison, Polk, Warren and Wright counties. Steelhammer says the trade show is not open to the public as it’s more for people in the industry.
"It’s anywhere from seedlings that you buy when you plant that tree on to fertilizing, shearing knives, culturing, clippers that you use to trim them with, stands to stand them in, lights — just from day one when you start it to bringing it into your home and setting it up," Steelhammer says.
On his 300-acre farm in Washington state, Steelhammer says they produce up to 50,000 trees per year and ship them as far away as Florida. He says the number of artificial tree buyers is rising every year. Steelhammer says, "We’re staying pretty much what we used to sell but we’re working very hard at trying to get our message out that we think a farm-grown real tree is the green choice. We replant, we recycle, chip ’em up for mulch, provide a lot of jobs, provide a lot of wildlife habitat."
One highlight of the convention is when the National Grand Champion Christmas Tree growers will be chosen, the ones who will represent the industry in presenting real Christmas trees to the White House later this year. For more information visit the National Christmas Tree Association’s website or the Iowa Christmas Tree Association website.