Skip the big box retailer and purchase your tree close to home this year. It's a great way to start a new family tradition that's good for the environment, local community, and economy.

According to Tim O'Connor, executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association, any place you can purchase a real Christmas tree offers a special holiday experience. (As O'Connor explains, "dragging out a dusty box and assembling a fake tree does not remotely offer the same special bonding family time.") But there's something extra special about choosing a tree from a local tree farm or garden center. They offer a bevy of benefits, too, from freshness to supporting small businesses.

Here are five reasons you might want to buy a Christmas tree from a local tree farm or garden center this year.

You'll get the freshest trees available.

Especially at tree farms, you'll have an opportunity to take home a tree that was cut just minutes before—by a skilled farm employee or even by yourself. It doesn't get any fresher than that, says Angie Smith, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association. "You don't have that guarantee if you purchase from the grocery store or home improvement store," she says. Locally-owned garden centers work with other businesses to bring in freshly-cut trees from the surrounding areas—big box retailers, on the other hand, often have trees trucked in from many, many miles away. If the effort of cutting down a tree is too much for you to take on this year, shopping for a tree at a local garden center is your best alternative.

Your purchase will support a small, local business.

Whether you purchase directly from a local tree farm or the stands at a family-owned garden center, you can feel confident you're making a difference by improving the local economy and supporting a small business, says Lisa Ruggiers, associate executive director of the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association. "Buying your Christmas tree from a local grower is a great way to shop local," as she explains.

You're doing good for the environment.

Real Christmas trees are both renewable and recyclable, points out Amy Start, executive director of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association. (It's worth noting that artificial trees can be environmentally friendly, too, but only if they're re-used year after year. Otherwise, the trees and their PVC components can end up in landfills.) What's more, Stuart says, "Christmas tree farms supply natural habitats for birds, small animals, and other wildlife, and add beauty to the state."

You can start a family tradition.

"From finding the right tree to decorating your home, the real tree adds dimension and fun to the holidays that can be celebrated and remembered for years to come," says Ruggiers. And cutting down your tree at a tree farm or choosing one at your favorite local garden center can be one of the most fun parts of starting those traditions. "Many farms have activities at the farm to make it an experience for their customers like wagon rides, live animals like reindeer, visits from Santa, or hot chocolate and snacks," describes Ruggiers.

You can snag other holiday décor, too.

A trip to your local tree farm or garden center can be a shopping experience for more than a tree. "Many farms also offer additional items for sale like fresh greens and wreaths, decorations, and gifts," says Ruggiers. Garden centers, too, often offer a wide selection of handmade decorations, including wreaths, bows, and fresh evergreen garlands. In other words, these spots can be a one-stop shop for all your holiday needs.

Comments (1)

Martha Stewart Member
December 27, 2019
My Uncle sold Christmas trees in his from yard for years to help ends meet, he was a farmer. but now has passed, We all went to upper Michigan and picked trees then a month later went and cut them,Sadly we were cutting trees that help us live. I would suggest artificial trees that live trees are wonderful but are dead once they are cut. If you want a live tree why not get one that is alive and is planted after the holidays.