San Rafael, California - From this weekend to next, will be the peak of the Christmas tree buying season. As many as 30 million will be sold in the U.S. alone.
One environmentally friendly farmer from Petaluma and his family has turned to making Santa’s elves into helicopter pilots to keep tree groves pristine.
If John Pronzini is anything, he is an environmentally conscious Christmas tree grower and seller, who has done whatever is needed for 60 years. "This thing has just evolved you know," said Prozini.
It began in 1963, with 325 trees that he and his wife harvested with a hand saw and a pickup truck. Today, Petaluma-based Pronzini Christmas Tree Farms has tree farms in California and Oregon selling 139,000 trees a year in the U.S., Mexico and China. The Pronzinis have 1.6 million pines in the ground; everything from small saplings to towering trees.
Since the farms are the main source of their retail business, protecting the land where they grow is everything. "Now we use helicopters to prevent erosion, so we don't dig up the soils and we can fly 800 trees an hour out," said Pronzini.
That means fewer heavy vehicles and staff work directly inside the delicate groves, vastly reducing erosion as years go by. "It takes about, well, seven to eight years and then, to get around a nine-to-ten-foot tree, you're talking nine to 10 years," said the farmer.
FILE - Christmas trees in a grove. (Getty Images)
By growing his own, Pronzini is holding the line on inflation. "My prices, with anything below seven feet, we didn't raise prices this year. We try to make these trees affordable for everybody," he said.
Long-term clients are the key, coming back year after year. "We're on the second or third generation, we've been selling trees for so long." Said Pronzini. "We've been coming here for like 20 years; get the cup and the tree every year. It's the start, you know of family, friends and celebrating. I really like it," said customer Greg Gener. "Oh, the tree makes it. It's the smell. It's the memories of the ornaments you put on the tree. We love the tree. That's why we came a little early this year because we like to get it out and get the smell going," said customer Linda Gener.
For the Simmons family, Michael picks the tree. Joyce decorates it. "Oh, I think it just means it's a happy feeling and you get to share the house and it's a lovely smell. It's a part of the season," said Joyce Simmons. "Until it gets the lights on, it's not doing its job. And, that's when I check out and Joyce puts all of the ornaments on, thank God," said Michael Simmons.
Real Christmas trees ingest lots of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and exhale the earth's cooling oxygen.