- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 10, 2005

FedEx delivers donated trees

Maryland and Virginia farmers have donated some of their Christmas trees to a national program that gives trees to families in U.S. military bases worldwide.

The program, known as Trees for Troops, is run by the Christmas Spirit Foundation, the charitable branch of the National Christmas Tree Association.

Participating farmers from 17 states include those in Ohio who sent trees to overseas military bases in mid-November. Trees from the 16 other states were distributed Friday to Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Lewis, Wash.; and Camp Pendleton, Calif. The District has no tree farmers.

About 750 trees were unloaded Wednesday at Fort Bragg. Michael Deveault, the base’s executive officer for Morale, Welfare and Recreation, said each unit is distributing tickets to families unable to afford trees.

“It’s just another thing they wouldn’t have to purchase for Christmas,” he said.

FedEx picked up and delivered the trees on East Coast, West Coast and Midwest routes. FedEx spokesman Ryan Furby said the company has not calculated the cost.

A tractor-trailer arrived Dec. 1 at Mayne Tree Farm in Buckeystown, Md., where Mehrl Franklin Mayne began tree farming in 1966. He worked first with his father, then took over the family business a few years ago.

Mr. Mayne, who has a son-in-law in the Navy, donated six trees and said that was the least he could do.

“Somebody’s got to do that job,” said Mr. Mayne, 51, “and it’s a little ‘thank you’ from us, from the tree grower.” The publicity could help, too.

Though more consumers still buy real trees, artificial ones are popular.

A National Christmas Tree Association survey indicates 27 million households bought real trees last year and 9 million bought artificial trees. However, the sale of real trees declined in previous years.

A Christmas tree at most Maryland farms costs about $35, said Bill Underwood, who grows them in Maryland and North Carolina. A quality Fraser fir, among the most popular, can cost about $60.

Mr. Underwood helped coordinate the participation of Maryland farmers. Though he had hoped to collect about 100 trees from Maryland farmers, only 47 trees were loaded onto the FedEx truck last week at the Buckeystown farm.

The goal was to collect about 3,000 trees from farmers nationwide, but the logistics of packing and moving trees at least 7 feet tall made participation difficult.

Mr. Underwood said “choose and cut” growers depend upon customers who drive to their farms, so they likely have no flatbed trucks to haul trees.

Farmers began dropping off trees in November at Mr. Mayne’s 170-acre farm, which was picked because it is centrally located, near Interstate 270 in Frederick County.

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