Christmas tree farms offering environmentally certified Christmas trees are working to develop industry wide farm sustainability standards and certification programs that demonstrate a commitment to using environmentally conscious farming methods.
An initial program was established in 2007 by a private group of four Oregon Christmas tree farms, the Coalition of Environmentally Conscious Growers. They went to a well known independent company experienced in the certification of sustainable farming, the Freer Group of Seattle, WA, to set compliance standards and physically audit and report on their farm's land use and farming practices.
In 2011 Christmas tree industry representatives working with the Oregon Department of Agriculture established a pilot project for a new industry wide Christmas tree farm certification system called SERF-Certified, for Socially & Environmentally Responsible Farm. SERF Certified Christmas tree farms are required to have a detailed working sustainability plan that identifies and protects wildlife, critical habitat, streams and riparian areas, demonstrates positive soil and water conservation, uses proper nutrient and integrated pest management, provides worker training, safety and sanitation, and conducts public education through consumer outreach.
Over 95% of the real Christmas trees used in the United States are also grown in the US, with commercial production centered in Oregon, North Carolina and Michigan, and local Christmas tree farms and Choose & Cut farms located in at least 40 states nationwide. With no large corporate ownership Christmas tree farming is an agricultural industry that is still almost entirely in the hands of family farms. Anchored in a deep respect for the land, sustainability has been something quietly practiced out of the public's view. With a widespread and diverse base of local Christmas tree farms spread throughout the United States, independent farmers lack of any central marketing voice has left a void where consumers know very little about how Christmas trees are actually grown, or how they fit into the overall environment of the rural communities where they are located.
Growing Christmas trees allows independent landowners a chance to responsibly use their land to produce a farm income, helping preserve the agricultural economy of these areas while providing good, green jobs out in rural parts of America where they are desperately needed. In this tough economy, paying for the costs of these environmental certification programs represents a sincere effort on the part of these farms to present the public with verification of the positive environmental effects Certified Christmas tree farms have on their land and on the rural communities where they are located.
There truly is a special way that real Christmas trees bring families together in celebration at the holidays. As adults a real tree takes us back to our own childhood with its anticipation of Christmas, and the belief that magic was not only real, but somehow imminent. Environmentally certified Christmas tree farms are working to let their customers know that enjoying a real Christmas tree with their families at the holidays supports working family farms here in the US that have real economic impacts on their rural communities and positive environmental benefits for the land.