For Immediate Release - November 25, 2011

State Agricultural Officials Kick Off Holiday Season with Annual Christmas Tree Cutting Ceremony

HANCOCK – Friday, November 25, 2011 – Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Commissioner Scott J. Soares today joined local legislators, town officials and community members at the Ioka Valley Farm to kick off the holiday season by harvesting a Massachusetts-grown Christmas tree.

During the annual Christmas tree cutting event, Commissioner Soares encouraged Massachusetts residents to buy locally-grown trees from one of the Commonwealth’s 200 Christmas tree farms.

“Going out to a local Christmas tree farm to harvest my own tree is one of my favorite traditions and I’m renaming today ’Green Friday’ in honor of this ceremony,” said Commissioner Soares. “In addition to being the freshest trees possible, locally-grown Christmas trees are renewable and recyclable and buying one from a local farm is good for the local economy.”

Christmas tree production is a sustainable agricultural practice. Since trees are a crop, they are continually replenished. Nearly 98 percent of all Christmas trees are grown on farms, thus limiting negative impact on forests.  For every Christmas tree harvested, one to three seedlings are planted, according to the DAR.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, Ioka Valley Farm is a diversified, family owned and operated working farm dedicated to providing high quality locally grown Christmas trees. Like many Massachusetts farmers, the owners have looked to implement new technologies to capture long-term energy efficiencies.

Along with a grant received through DAR’s Farm Viability Enhancement Program, the Ioka Valley Farm recently invested $200,000 to remodel and expand its sugar house operations.

“Buying a real Christmas tree from your local grower keeps open space and money local, as well as reducing our carbon footprint. It also provides animal habitat, prevents soil erosion and beautifies the landscape. Christmas trees are recyclable, bio-degradable and make ‘scents’,” said Melissa Leab of Ioka Valley Farm.

For a list of over 200 Christmas tree farms across the state, visit the MassGrown & Fresher website to purchase locally grown Balsam, Concolor, Fraser, Noble Fir and Scotch and White Pine trees.

DAR’s mission is to ensure the long-term viability of agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions – Agricultural Conservation & Technical Assistance, Agricultural Markets, Animal Health, and Crop and Pest Services – DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the rich diversity of the Commonwealth’s agricultural community to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture’s role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR’s website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow at http://twitter.com/MDARCommish

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