GREAT FALLS, VIRGINIA —
Nearly 80 percent of U.S. households — about 99 million — will decorate their living rooms with a Christmas tree this year, according to the American Christmas Tree Association.
While artificial trees have grown in popularity, many Americans consider it a tradition to visit a tree farm to get a fresh-cut, natural tree for the holiday season.
"We have our Christmas tree. ... We're going to take it home and decorate it," tree buyer Abby Springmann said recently. "It's kind of a backwards concept, to take a tree from outside and bring it indoors," she laughed while explaining the tradition.
"We're putting lights on it and ornaments, lots of ornaments. You collect the ornaments for years. I got ones from since I was 5 years old. It's fun!" she said.
Krop's Crops, a seasonal farm in Great Falls, Virginia, is where Springmann has been going with her family since she was 7 years old.
Buying a tree for the holidays at this local tree farm brings back lots of childhood memories and preserves her family tradition, she said.
During the holiday season, visitors can also buy decorations, such as poinsettias, wreaths and ornaments. The farm also sells seasonal vegetables, local honey and handicrafts all year round.
Larry Krop is the owner of this eight-hectare farm, which employs three generations of the Krop family.
"There's a lot of customers who come in and said, 'Larry, this is our 22nd, 23rd, 24th year' (of coming to the farm). We go back to 1986, so it's almost 30 years coming up next year, that we've been selling trees up here," Krop said.
Although he has employees, Krop said he relies more on his children.
His son, Andy Krop, says, "Basically you're your own boss. Even though I work for my dad, we do what we know, what we need to get done -- being able to come up with ideas, new ideas of things that we can do for the business and other side businesses that we can work off of the land."
It takes about five to 10 years for the trees to reach the ideal height — between 1 and 4 meters. Prices vary from $48 to $400. The Fraser and Canaan firs are bestsellers.
Many factors come into play in choosing the "perfect" tree — the type of tree, its color, the shape and feel of the needles and boughs, as well as height and width.
Once a customer finds their perfect tree, the farm staff will trim the lower branches to make it sit in the tree stand, shake loose any needles, and then wrap it in a net to make it easier to transport home.