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White House Trees

Watch RFD TV's special following the tree from Larry's farm to the White House!

 

On September 24, 2018, White Officials came to Mountain Top Fraser Fir farm in Newland, NC owned by Larry Smith to select the tree being showcased in the Blue Room of the White House. Larry won this honor being the grand champion of the NC Christmas Tree Association contest and then the National Christmas Tree Contest in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Smith had attempted to win the contest 5 times.

The Christmas Tree was selected by White Chief Usher, Timothy Harleth, and Superintendent of the grounds, Dale Haney. Larry had selected 10 trees that would fit in the standards of the Blue room. After going around they selected the tree and topped it with a red bow.

The tree selection was followed by a brief press conference where Larry Smith, Jennifer Greene, Executive Director of NCCTA, and Timothy Harleth spoke. Larry Smith got emotional after speaking about how much this meant to him.

The Tree Cutting Ceremony was on November 14, 2018. Larry Smith was accompanied by his family and media while cutting the tree. The tree had to be lifted by a crane and placed on the bed of the truck in order to be sent to the loading site. The tree was 19 feet and 800 pounds. Before sending it on its way Larry cut a sliver off the trunk to have as a souvenir to remember this special day.

 

 

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The tree was then transported to Mountain Glen Golf Course where there was a brief press conference. Steve Troxler, Jennifer Greene, Jerry Moody, and Larry Smith all spoke about this honor and what it means to Larry and the State of North Carolina. The tree was then loaded with the help of the Avery County High School JROTC. The tree then made its journey to White House going through Lenoir where Larry has a retail lot.

On November 19, 2018, the tree was presented to the First Family, Donald, and Melania Trump by Larry Smith and his family. The tree was then put up in the Blue room for everyone to see. Larry Smith and his Fiance Beth went back a week later to see the whole White House decorated including the Blue Room tree.

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NC Fraser Fir’s have been selected to be in the White House 13 times since 1971. This is more than any other state.

Larry Smith has been growing Christmas trees since high school which expanded into planting just a few seedlings to it becoming a full-time farm. Larry has gotten his three sons involved as well as his brother who owns a Christmas Tree farm as well.

After providing trees for the Vice President, Governor, and State Capital, Smith is so excited to finally fulfill his dreams of being the White House Tree.

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Rusty and Beau Estes, owners of Peak Farms, have earned the right to present an 18 1/2 foot Fraser fir to the White House for display in "The Blue Room." The selected White House Christmas tree began its life from seed in 1990 when George H. Bush was President. There have been three additional presidents since that time and the tree is now 22 years old.

Rusty Estes has been involved in the Christmas tree industry since 1979, starting with only 200 trees in the ground and a retail lot in Lenoir, North Carolina. Rusty began growing Christmas trees on the side while working as a golf course superintendent in Avery county where he says, "the winters were tougher and the ground was harder." Rusty owned a Christmas tree retail lot for 15 years before selling out and moving to Ashe County, North Carolina with his wife Ann and two children, Beau Estes and Katirie Estes.

Beau graduated from North Carolina State University in 2002, and started working in the golf course industry. Beau moved back to Ashe County in 2003 and began his full-time career in Christmas trees. He married Amanda Korevec, who now teaches 1st grade at Blue Ridge Elementary School. They have two sons, Colin Estes and Riley Estes.

Rusty and Beau have seen many changes in the Christmas tree industry, but one thing that remains the same is their dedication to education. Peak Farms collaborates with North Carolina Cooperative Extension who conducts research projects on their farm that have potential impacts, not only for them, but the entire industry. They also work to educate youth about Christmas trees. Every year local first graders make a trip to Peak Farms to learn about the benefits of Christmas trees. The children also place tags on harvested trees requesting the city and state of each buyer. The children then begin their mapping project showing where every tagged tree has been shipped. Students leave Peak Farms with their own tree that they can plant at their home.

"We haven't done this on our own. 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." Rusty Estes, Peak Farms

wh02North Carolina is once again White House bound for Christmas. For the 10th time since 1966, when the tradition began, North Carolina will have the honor of presenting a REAL Christmas tree - a perfect Fraser fir - to the First Lady for display in the White House Blue Room. Christmas Tree Grower Joe Freeman & wife Linda will make their coveted journey to Washington the week after Thanksgiving with a tree from their Ashe county farm.

Joe & Linda won this honor by winning the Grand Champion title at the National Christmas Tree contest held in Portland Oregon in 2006. To be eligible to enter a tree at the National competition in Portland, Joe first won the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association state contest.

Joe currently grows Fraser fir Christmas Trees at Mistletoe Meadows, his 130 acre farm in Laurel Springs North Carolina, approximately 5 miles from the Blue Ridge parkway where he currently has approximately 100,000 trees planted. He also has additional tree farms in Virginia and in Moore county N.C. Wholesale customers include retailers, garden centers and fund raising groups. Joe owns and operates a retail lot in Asheboro N.C. during the retail selling season.

Mistletoe Meadows produces approximately 15,000 wreaths in 12 sizes each Christmas Season. Joe is a member of the North Carolina Christmas tree association, National Christmas Tree Association, Ashe County Christmas Tree Growers Association, Mt Rogers Christmas tree Growers Association, & Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association.

Joe was the NCCTA Grand champion Wreath maker in 1992, 1994, 1996 & 2002. He grew the NCCTA Grand champion Tree in 2001. He also took top honors for the National grand champion Wreath in 1998 and 2004.

Members of the White House staff will visit Joe's farm in October to hand pick this years selection. The tree will be cut in late November and transported to Washington D.C. for a formal presentation to First Lady Laura Bush. The tree will be decorated by the White house floral department staff and volunteers.

wh01River Ridge Tree Farms of Ashe County was named Grand Champion Fraser Fir Farm at the Summer Meeting of the NC Christmas Tree Association in August 2007. The growers Jessie Davis and Rusty Estes then represented North Carolina in the Summer 2008 National Christmas Tree contest held in Des Moines Iowa. They entered an 8 ft. Fraser Fir and won the Blue Ribbon for the True Fir category and were also named Grand Champion Growers of all species. This is the 3rd time in the last four years that a North Carolina farm has won this award and the second straight win for Ashe County. North Carolina growers have won this National honor 11 times - almost twice as much as the next closest state. Jessie Davis and Rusty Estes of River Ridge Tree Farms were in attendance to receive the Grand Champion ribbon and were very excited to receive this award. As a result of the win, they presented an 18.5-foot NC Fraser Fir to First lady Laura Bush in November 2008. This tree will be displayed in the White House Blue Room to be viewed by all visitors to the White House during the Christmas Season.

River Ridge Tree Farms was founded in 1983 by Jessie Davis and his father in law Joe Pennington. After Joe passed away in 2003, Rusty Estes became a partner along with Jessie's mother in law Carol Pennington. Rusty has been growing trees since 1979 and was a great a great addition to the River Ridge Team. River Ridge Farms has trees planted in locations throughout northwest North Carolina as well as southwest Virginia. The tree to be presented to the White House will be chosen from a field of trees that were planted in 1985 by Jessie and Joe on one of their original farms in Creston, N.C. Jessie said that it was fitting that one of the Trees that Joe help plant would be going to Washington to represent the nation. He said that he was sure that Joe would be very proud of this accomplishment and achievement and that this honor was equivalent to winning the Super Bowl.

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Glorious white lilies, crystal spheres and light-catching garlands accented this 2005's official White House Christmas tree. The theme: "All Things Bright and Beautiful". The 18-foot Fraser fir was presented to President and Mrs. Bush by Earl, Betsy, Buddy and Meg Deal from the Smokey Holler Tree Farm in Laurel Springs, North Carolina. The Deals won this honor by being named the 2005 National Grand Champion Growers by the National Christmas Tree Association.

Since the beginning of the program established by the National Christmas Tree Association in 1966, a North Carolina tree has won the competition nine times and received the honor of being displayed in the Blue Room of the White House - this is more times than any other state. This is the top honor for any Christmas tree grower and Earl Deal stated that he has been waiting 30 years for this to happen.

The Blue Room Christmas Tree was handpicked by White House Chief Usher Gary Walters and Grounds Foreman Mike Lawn on October 20, 2005. The tree was cut in late November and sent to Washington, D.C. The White House staff also selected two beautiful North Carolina Fraser Fir Christmas Trees for the White House Oval Office and the Bush family's private residence. "The last time a Christmas tree from North Carolina was displayed in the White House was in 1997," Gary Walters said. "This beautiful Fraser fir from the Deal family is the perfect tree to continue this long-standing White House tradition."

An active member of both NCTA and the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association for more than 30 years, Earl credits both associations with providing him with many learning opportunities that have contributed to his success. "We had tagged this one hoping it would be the one picked," Earl Deal said, referring to the Fraser fir selected as the 2005 Blue Room Tree. "This is a dream come true. I think every Christmas tree grower hopes that they will someday provide a tree to the White House, but it's still hard to believe that it will ever happen to you."

Achieving this honor was no easy feat for the Deals. In order to be eligible to enter the National Contest, they first had to compete in the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association competition. The Deals' Fraser fir then competed against 22 other entries at the national competition in Lake Harmony, Penn., in order to earn the opportunity to present the Blue Room Tree for display in the White House. But the family agrees that it was worth all the time and effort involved. "There is no higher honor in this business," Earl said.

Earl first began planting Christmas Trees as a hobby in Blowing Rock in 1972 with his cousin and college roommate. At a NC Christmas Tree Association meeting later that year, they met a gentleman wanting to sell a stand of trees in Laurel Springs. Looking at these trees in a very dense fog, they thought the trees looked great and a deal was made. When the sun came out, those trees looked a little worse than they had on that foggy day back in the hollow - thus the name Smokey Holler. At the time, he was employed with the Department of Wood and Paper Science at North Carolina State University, while Betsy taught with the Wake County School System. For a number of years, the Deal family commuted from their home in Raleigh to the farm in Laurel Springs on weekends and vacations to care for the trees. Upon the couple's retirement, they became permanent residents of Laurel Spring and full-time Christmas tree growers.

The Christmas trees grown at Smokey Holler Tree Farm are sold wholesale to retailers along the East Coast, from Miami to Long Island, and across the Midwest. In addition, the family sells wreaths, garlands and roping; operates retail lots in the Raleigh-Durham area; and runs a Choose & Cut Christmas Tree farm on part of their property. The couple's son, Buddy, helps manage the farm operations, while their daughter, Meg, serves as the certified public accountant for the business and helps out during harvest time. Over the years Smokey Holler has branched out to not only grow trees such as Fraser fir, White pine, Blue spruce, Concolor fir, Norway spruce, and Canaan fir, but they also do wreaths and roping to utilize low grade trees. Both Earl and Buddy emphasize that they branched out so as not to compromise the quality of the fresh Christmas trees from their farm. The Deal motto is displayed in their office: "Quality is in watching the details" and the family believes that if they take care of the details, the quality will come.

Betsy states that Earl teaches by example and demands hard work. Either he or Buddy is in the field daily with the crew. They actively participate and work with the crew in overseeing trees. Earl sees a large advantage in the fact that Buddy speaks Spanish fluently and can converse easily with the crew. Why all the working together? Earl states that his vision for the farm is to have the Deal "signature on their trees" and to have pride in the end product.

The presentation of the Blue Room Christmas Tree to the Mrs. Bush at the White House took place on Monday, Nov. 28, 2005. The tree was set up later that day and decorated by the White House Floral Department staff and volunteers. The Deal family was invited to return later in the afternoon to the White House to help decorate the tree and see it on display in the Blue Room. "This whole experience has been extremely humbling for our family," Earl said. "We feel that we are not only representing our farm but also the entire Christmas tree industry and we are so grateful for this opportunity."

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