- Associated Press - Monday, December 5, 2016

SMITHS CREEK, Mich. (AP) - You can talk about tradition, you can talk about spending time with family and being environmentally correct, but 8-year-old Jack Lucas knows the real reason to cut a Christmas tree is “so we can put presents under the tree.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

Jack was doing most of the cutting Saturday for his family, little brother Henry, 5, mom and dad Angela and Joe Lucas, of St. Clair, and grandparents and aunt, Craig and Sue and Ally LaDuke, of Marysville, at Dunsmore Blue Spruce Tree Farm in Smiths Creek.

Michigan is one of the best places in the nation to look for a live Christmas tree, The Times Herald (https://bwne.ws/2gKdden ) reported.

The state ranks third in production, trailing Oregon and North Carolina. Michigan tree farmers harvested slightly more than 1.7 million trees in 2012, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Ken Dunsmore has been selling Christmas trees since the mid-1980s.

“There’s not a lot of money in it, but it pays the bills,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

He said people come out to the tree farm for more than a Christmas tree.

“A third of my customers don’t even get a tree,” he said. “They come for what I call the Christmas experience: Walk around, take a ride on a wagon.”

The Lucases and LaDukes came for the Christmas experience.

“This is our 11th year,” Angela Lucas said. “It’s fun, it’s Christmas, it feels more like Christmas.”

Len and Carolyn Satawa came from Romeo with their family: Son Michael, daughter-in-law Lana and grandsons Cameron, 5, and Bryce, 3.

“It’s inexpensive and it’s a nice ride,” Len Satawa said. “We have been here before.”

Carolyn said she liked the service at Dunsmore’s.

“She was so pleasant, gave me all the information and was so kind,” she said.

Marsha Gray, of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association in Howell, said Michigan grows more varieties of Christmas trees than any other state.

“We’re sending four or five sometimes more (varieties) on a truckload,” she said.

“… The top seller right now is Fraser fir,” she said. “We do grow quite a bit of that here.

“There are very strong opinions about Christmas trees,” she said. “The nice thing is we have so many varieties to choose from.”

Gray said the trees are grown on farms specifically to be cut down - and unlike artificial trees, are biodegradable.

“St. Paul, Minnesota, they power that city with waste wood,” she said. “After the holidays, the Christmas trees they collect are put into that program and they are powering their city with Christmas trees.”

Ed Shephard, at Country Christmas Tree Farm and Gifts in Greenwood Township, said his busy weekends are the next three - what he calls the Big Three.

“To me, it’s about the family experience, as a kid and now bringing my kids out,” he said. “It’s a great family tradition.”

He’s been in the Christmas tree business for 10 years.

“I don’t know where the time went,” he said.

Jim and Jo Watts own Forester Tree Farm in Carsonville.

“We started planting trees in ‘86, but I’ve been open since 1994,” he said, “It takes a while to get the trees big enough to sell.”

He said the taste in trees has shifted from blue spruce - with their stiff needles good for hanging ornaments - to the firs.

“People like the experience of taking a hayride and cutting their own tree,” he said. “That’s probably part of it.

“Some of them like the smell of the trees.”

Tim Schmidt is the Tree Man at Natural Tree Farm in Ruby. He said there’s no comparison between a real tree and an artificial tree.

“My answer is you don’t have fake goals and fake dreams, so why would you want a fake Christmas tree?” he said. “Christmas is about tradition and speaking about American values and all that.

“And if a real tree catches fire, your house might burn but you’re not going to die from the fumes.”

He said he thinks people buy artificial trees as a “matter of convenience. Other than that, there’s no reason to buy a fake tree.”

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