Farm, county still make good use of Christmas trees after holiday season

On Black Friday, Mike Kelly of Whispering Pines Christmas Tree Farm said hundreds of customers walked through 35 acres of Christmas trees picking out the Virginia Pine, Sand Pine, or Southern Red Cedar they would deem worthy to become the temporary focus of their living room décor this holiday season. But what happens to these bearers of Christmas cheer once the new year arrives and the garland goes back in the box? Both Kelly and the countyprovided some answers.

While ECUA and Santa RosaCounty contend with home recycling pickup being suspended for a time, live Christmas tree recycling is still in full swing. According to the county, live Christmas trees can be dropped off until January 18 at five county recycling areas. The trees will be chipped and offered as free mulch at Clean Community System in Milton at a later date to be announced.

Those five places are the Clean Community System/Green-Up Nursery, 6758 Park Avenue, the Jay Transfer Station on Transfer Station Road in Jay, the Pace Volunteer Fire Department at 4773 Pace Patriot Boulevard, the Navarre Beach Boat Ramp Parking Lot Recycle Area on Gulf Boulevard at Navarre Beach, and the Tiger Point Recreation Area in Gulf Breeze east of Wal-Mart.

Kelly said the branches can also be used to make wreaths and the trunks made into decorative pucks. Part of the process of buying a live tree, Kelly said, involves shaking, which employs a device to literally shake the loose and dead material from the tree before taking it home. He said this loose material goes to filling ditches.

The Whispering Pines farm sells about half of the trees it plants, according to Kelly, this year being about 2,000 to 2,500. Trees going unsold, he said, keep on growing waiting for Christmas to roll around again the following year. He said between three and four years they reach about six feet, then eight feet by five to six years.

Trees going unsold for long enough, Kelly said, may become firewood and recycled on the farm grounds, or in some cases have other unique purposes. He said he recently sold a few 14-foot trees for a wedding. They were allowed to grow naturally, without sheering. Kelly noted the farm uses saplings to continue the tree population and so is environmentally sound, planting more trees than are cut.