A Tree Fit Fir a President
More than 100 media representatives, dignitaries and family and
friends joined the owners of Peak Farms on Saturday to celebrate the harvest and sendoff of an
official White House Christmas tree.
The Nov. 17 ceremony was the culmination of more than three decades of work by the Estes family to grow and shepherd their Christmas tree business, which they began in 1979.
“We haven’t done this on our own,” Peak Farms owner Rusty Estes said. “We had a lot of help getting started with what to do, when to do and how to do. We greatly appreciate everyone who has helped us along the way.”
In August, Estes, along with son Beau, earned the right to provide the Christmas tree that will grace the Blue Room at the White House during the month of December.
The Estes family will also make the more than 370-mile journey north to personally deliver the 18-and-a-half foot tall Fraser fir to the White House on Nov. 22.
And this isn’t the first time.
In 2008, Rusty, along with Jessie and Michele Davis and Carol Pennington of River Ridge Tree Farms in Creston, donated a 21-foot Fraser fir to the nation’s capital and personally delivered the tree to then-First Lady Laura Bush after Thanksgiving. Peak Farms also provided the main Christmas tree for the Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh in 2008.
The selection process for this year’s tree began when Estes won the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association Contest in 2011. Instead of following the more traditional path of providing an entry in the Fraser fir division, Rusty entered a blue spruce in the competition’s “other” category.
From there, Estes took another blue spruce to the national tree association contest in Sacramento in August of this year. The decision to enter a blue spruce in the contest played well with the West Coast judges, where Rusty said Douglas fir and spruce types “are big in that area,” and the Estes family was awarded the honor of providing this year’s official White House tree.
The Fraser fir that was ultimately chosen by White House staff during a visit to Peak Farms earlier this year was harvested during a ceremony on Nov. 17, before being hand-baled and placed in a refrigerated truck that will protect the tree during its journey north.
Shortly after harvest, the tree was featured during West Jefferson’s Christmas Parade on Nov. 17, before making its way to the Ashe County Courthouse for its official sendoff, during an early afternoon ceremony attended by Estes family and friends, and U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx and N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler.
“Of the eight years I’ve been commissioner of agriculture in North Carolina, five of them we’ve won the national (Christmas tree) competition,” Troxler said with a laugh. “I was getting a little worried, though; 2008 was the last time we’d won the competition, and it was a great source of pride that I can brag to the other commissioners around the country about how good this Christmas tree industry is, and putting the tree in the White House.”
Motioning to the Christmas tree provided by Peak Farms that dominates the ground floor of the Ashe County Courthouse, Foxx said the tree was among several the Estes family had shown to White House staff when they were making their final determination.
“Folks, that is a perfect tree,” Foxx said. “And it is so fitting to have it here in Ashe County. I am just delighted that I have the opportunity to add my congratulations, because I understand the hard work that these people do year in and year out to produce such a beautiful tree and to do so much good for our area.”
Throughout this 2012 Christmas season, Troxler said he was looking forward to promoting North Carolina grown trees everywhere he goes.
“We’ve got this wonderful resource that’s important for North Carolina, and I just hope every family in North Carolina selects a real live North Carolina Christmas tree this year,” Troxler said. “I’m going to be preaching that message all across the state.”