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Cutting down your own Christmas tree

Yule trees are an important agricultural crop for local farms

The decorated Christmas tree at the Double 4 Tree Farm is fun for children to find when strolling the rows of trees to find the perfect one. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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Did you know that Christmas trees are an agricultural crop that provides another income stream for local farms? Once a tree is cut, another is planted to take its place. Tree farms are a busy social hub during the weeks following Thanksgiving, with cut-your-own tree opportunities and seasonal fun like outdoor fires, hot chocolate and Christmas shops.

It makes a fun family activity to pick the perfect tree for your holiday celebration. With its Pierce County location, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) is close to both the Kitsap Peninsula and Thurston County.

All three counties have big agricultural areas with multiple tree farms. Double 4 Tree Farm, for example, is located just outside the city limits of Tacoma. In business since 1982, this farm actually opens pretty early, on Nov. 2, on weekends so you can get out and reserve your tree, then come back and cut it beginning Nov. 29. It is easy to get into the holiday spirit with the large fire to warm up at, hot chocolate and the sounds of Christmas carols filling the air. Kids will love finding the decorated tree among the rows of trees to select from.

Heading south to Thurston County, the Hunter Family Farm is a much-loved Christmas tradition for many local families. The family has been cultivating Christmas since 1948. Operating as a cut-your-own-tree farm since the 1970s, they stepped it up in 1992, adding a full pre-Christmas experience with bards, a holiday shop and reindeer. Mrs. Claus' Kitchen offers free coffee and hot chocolate. Cookies and other treats are available for purchase. The Hunter Family Farm is now seeing second and third generations of families carry on the tradition and come out to pick their Christmas tree.

Schilter Family Farm is the closest to JBLM. It offers Noble, Fraser, Grand and Douglas firs from which to choose from. Cut your own, or select from the farm's array of freshly-cut trees. Catch a hayride on the weekends to the Christmas tree forest and cut your tree. Trees are delivered back to the barn, so you don't have to carry them. Options include having the tree drilled and mounted in a tree stand.

They also offer flocking, which is a coating that makes a tree look like it is dusted with snow. Other things to do at the Schilter farm include a visit to the lighted nativity scene, which is in the 140-year-old barn.

Beginning Nov. 29, Santa visits the farm on the first three Saturdays of the season. You can also download a Christmas wish list from their website for your children to write down their wish list for Santa.

The Kitsap Peninsula is home to eight Christmas tree farms and a variety of places that sell pre-cut wreaths and garlands. Driving over the Narrows Bridge just makes it feel like a road trip. For more information, go to:

Heading out to a local tree farm to cut your own tree is a great way to establish a family tradition while helping to support local farmers by keeping your Christmas shopping dollars local.

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