$1B Christmas tree industry has deep roots in Pa.
Every day looks like Christmas on Jack Grupp's farm.
Thousands of perfectly shaped pines dot the hilly 84 acres in Harmony. Add a coating of snow, Grupp said, and it looks magical.
“Sometimes, though, we're a little too busy to really enjoy it,” said Grupp, who founded Grupp's Christmas Trees with his wife, Nancy, in 1982. “It's a lot of hard work. But seeing people come here and have a good time, especially little kids — this is our time of year.”
The Grupps are part of a national $1 billion industry of growing and selling live Christmas trees. Pennsylvania is a major player, with 1,205 Christmas tree farms — the second-most in the country behind Oregon. Farmers here annually harvest more than a million trees, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Many people who buy real trees trek to farms. At Grupp's, visitors stroll, looking carefully before selecting a tree to cut.
With an average tree costing $40, it's a recession-proof holiday tradition, said Stacy Zimmerman, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association.
“When the economic situation turned from bad to worse, we saw an increase in the number of families visiting tree farms,” Zimmerman said. “They made it to be a big family affair — spending the day together, going to the farm, starting a tradition.
“For $40, that's a very inexpensive way to spend a day with family and create a memory.”
The Grupps work year-round to facilitate such memories.
After planting saplings in the spring, Grupp spends the summer trimming maturing trees to form the conical shape Americans desire.
“We work until they're all done,” he said. “Some years, I don't get to them all.”
Zimmerman wonders who will step in when older farmers retire: “To younger generations, tree farming doesn't seem so sexy.”
Yet, studies show that people younger than 30 prefer to buy real trees,rather than fake trees, said Rick Dungey, spokesman for the National Christmas Tree Association.
“They like tradition, and they like using renewable resources,” Dungey said. “The challenge is providing this generation with options. Some people want to buy trees online, for example. There's even a delivery service that brings you your tree and sets it up for you.”
Grupp remains confident that families will continue to visit local Christmas tree farms. He sells hundreds of trees each year.
“There's a core group of people who make buying a Christmas tree an event,” Grupp said. “They come year after year.”
Bob and Anna Starr of Valencia are among them.
“We go all-out for Christmas,” Anna Starr said. “I'd like three trees this year.”
Chris Togneri is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5632 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- VA hospitals in Pittsburgh, Erie turn attention to female veterans’ needs
- Allegheny County Controller Wagner claims rival Flaherty benefits from ‘dark money’
- Penn Hills School District brings on former employee as consultant
- Western Pennsylvania watchmaking company says worker safe in earthquake
- McKees Rocks council president arrested after SWAT standoff
- Duquesne University, union spar over labor laws
- Baby makes arrival at fast food restaurant in Hazelwood
- Newsmaker: Leslie Geier
- Work to begin on Fifth Avenue apartments in Uptown
- It’s business, but not as usual in Pittsburgh
- Allegheny County Council will have new look