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Richard Rice, of Port Byron, drops off a Christmas tree at the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District's Trade-a-Tree program in 2016.

Since Thanksgiving weekend, I have seen many vehicles with fresh Christmas trees carefully secured to them. For me, it is a sign that the holiday season is rapidly approaching.

If you are still thinking about getting a fresh tree, there are several local farms producing trees that are either pre-cut or can be cut by you. You can look at the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York website to find one near you by typing in your zip code. Depending on how far you want to travel within New York state, you have approximately 875 tree farms to choose from. In fact, New York ranks fourth in the country for Christmas tree production!

There are several reasons to consider a local or at least a New York-grown tree. These include keeping your money local: More than 300,000 New York-grown Christmas trees are sold each year, generating an $8 million economic impact to the state. In addition, the fresher the tree, the longer it will hold its needles.

Want a simple test to determine how fresh a pre-cut tree is? Simply bend a needle or two. If the needle breaks, the tree is not as fresh as it is if you can bend a needle and have it spring back. This is also a good test for determining when your tree has been inside long enough and needs to be recycled. A second test is to pick the tree a few inches off the ground and bump the base of the trunk on the ground. If a few needles fall it is OK, but if there is a cascade of needles, take a pass and look for another tree on a different lot.

One of my co-workers shared with me an online article about finding the perfect Christmas tree and the warning about the number of “bugs” it might contain. This article was prepared by a national pest control company; however, it was a good reminder that insects may have selected your tree to survive the winter prior to harvest. Generally, any insect that comes with your tree is not a threat to you, your home or its contents.

It is suggested that leaving your tree in the garage or porch for a few days before bringing it into the house may allow these insects to wake up there rather than in your home. Plus, this gives the tree time to adjust from the cold temperatures outdoors and not be shocked coming inside.

When you purchase a pre-cut tree, be sure to cut an inch off the bottom to allow the tree to take up water. If you cut your own tree, be sure to place it in water as soon as you arrive home. The trees will take up water, which helps them remain fresher through the holiday season.

Over the years, I have heard people say that cutting a Christmas tree was bad for the environment. I would disagree, as these trees are grown on farms and are intended to be harvested as a renewable resource. Christmas tree farms create local jobs and support the local economy, in addition to providing open space and wildlife habitat.

For those who are using a fresh tree in Cayuga County, please consider having yours recycled through the county’s Trade-A-Tree program. Bring your Christmas tree, once it is free of decorations, tinsel, wraps and any other foreign objects, for a certificate for a Canaan fir transplant that will be available this spring at Cayuga County’s Soil and Water Conservation District’s tree and shrub sale on May 3.

Trees that are dropped off to the Trade-A-Tree program at the Natural Resource Center, 7413 County House Road, Sennett, will be chipped into mulch and used in public works projects. This is a good way to keep trees from being landfilled or dumped by the side of the road.

The Trade-A-Tree program is co-sponsored by the Cayuga County Solid Waste Management Program, the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County. It will be staffed as follows:

• 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 26, through Friday, Dec. 28

• 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 2, through Friday, Jan. 4

• 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 7, through Friday, Jan. 11

• 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14, through Friday, Jan. 18

For any questions about the Trade-A-Tree program, please call (315) 252-4171 ext. 3. This year, give back to the environment and let the Christmas spirit live on by recycling your tree.

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Judy Wright is a senior resource educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County. For more information, visit or call (315) 255-1183.