Toomey’s Take: From Lehighton, Pennsylvania to 1600 Pennsylvania, By U.S. Senator Pat Toomey

The holiday season is a time for family, friends…and Christmas trees!


And here in Pennsylvania, we are home to more than 1,000 Christmas tree farms.  While the peak demand period for these trees is no mystery, the dedicated families who grow them and ensure that Christmas trees are readily available in December work tirelessly year round.


It is because of their dedication that Pennsylvania is among the top six Christmas tree producing states in the country. In fact, Indiana County is the “Christmas Tree Capital of the World.”


Pennsylvania has many reasons to be proud of this homegrown industry. Each year, the National Christmas Tree Association holds a competition. Growers, industry experts, and consumers vote to decide which farm will supply the official White House Christmas Tree.


This year, Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton, owned and operated by the Botek family for over 50 years, won the honor of providing a tree for the White House. The Botek’s Douglas-Fir tree is decorated and showcased in the Blue Room of the White House. But that’s not all. A Crystal Spring Christmas tree also graced the White House in 2006, 2010, and 2013. No other Christmas tree farm has provided the White House Christmas tree on four separate occasions. This is no easy task. The Boteks first needed to impress the judges at the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association competition to even be considered on the national level.


Arriving at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on a horse-drawn carriage, the 23-year-old Douglas-Fir tree immediately won the approval of the First Lady and her daughters. It was decorated to honor our service men and women.


Even if you don’t have room for an 18-foot-tall tree in your home, a Pennsylvania-grown tree has many pluses. “The advantages of selecting a real Christmas tree reaches far beyond its fragrant appeal,” said Denise Calabrese, executive director of the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association, which represents nearly 200 growers in the Commonwealth. “Families should use the opportunity to choose their live Christmas tree as a chance to do a fun activity together each year. Building family traditions by not only choosing the tree, but decorating it and making it part of the family home during the Christmas season can be an exciting and participatory activity for the youngest to the oldest of family members!”


“Best of all, purchasing a fresh-cut Christmas tree supports a local tree farmer,” adds Calabrese.


Picking a Christmas tree brings families together. Again this year the Toomey clan selected our tree with some help from Arland Schantz at Evergreen Farm on Limeport Pike in Zionsville. The tree is a beauty and we put it up right away.   Every year, Kris, our three children, and I reminisce over family ornaments while decorating our tree.  It’s a yearly tradition for millions of Americans, but here in Pennsylvania we can be truly proud of the recognition our Christmas tree growers have received and the contributions they have made.