JEFFERSON — Peak Farms sent off their finest tree for display in the White House’s Blue Room this holiday season during a community event recognizing the farm owners, the Estes family, for their accomplishment as Grand Champions of the National Christmas Tree Association’s Christmas tree contest.
In a Nov. 17 send-off ceremony hosted at the Ashe County Courthouse, executive director of the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce Kitty Honeycutt opened the send-off ceremony with a thanks to everyone who attended.
“Thanks to not only Peak Farms and the Estes family, but also the rich heritage of Christmas tree farming in Ashe County,” Honeycutt said. “In doing this (ceremony), we recognize the importance of every Christmas tree placed in every home. It becomes the focal point of the celebration, the backdrop of all the family pictures and the keeper of the precious keep-sake ornaments.”
The 19-foot tall Fraser is the third tree that Peak Farms has sent to the White House. Trees were previously sent in 2008 and 2012 for former First Ladies Laura Bush and Michelle Obama. Peak Farms was also the provider in 2018 for former Vice President Mike Pence’s residence.
Peak Farms has grown trees since 1979 and now have more than 400,000 Christmas trees growing on their farms as a multi-generational family farm operation.
This year’s Fraser fir is also North Carolina’s 14th tree to get featured in the Blue Room, placing the state as the top producer of Christmas trees for the White House.
“North Carolina is the best place to grow (Christmas trees) and live in,” Rusty Estes said.
Ashe County NC Cooperative Extension Director Travis Birdsell said that Ashe County’s greatest economic boost is within the Christmas tree business, which provides around $115 million a year.
“I believe that this year, once again, Ashe County will be the largest producer of Christmas trees in the nation,” said Birdsell.
Farmers in Ashe County grow 24 million trees on 14,000 acres of land, according to Birdsell, and this time of the season is the busiest of the year as farmers work to finish cutting more than three million trees and ship them all over the country in time for Thanksgiving.
“We never lose sight that each and every one is special to individual families. Each family searches for the tree that is worthy to be displayed in their home, allow its branches to hold their memories, place their gifts around it and adorn the top with an angel or a star,” said Birdsell.
“We watched real trees brighten hearts and minds and signal the start of a Holiday season that is about hope and our promise for the future. We believe that Christmas begins with a real tree and real trees begin in Ashe County,” Birdsell said in closing.
Chairman of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners Todd McNeill said the honor for the county will spread throughout the community and White House as the tree is placed in the Blue Room.
“This is a big deal for them (Peak Farms) and it’s a big deal for our community and the agriculture community as a whole,” said McNeill. “Congratulations to the Estes family. This is a big honor for their family and for our community.”
The Estes family was joined by a variety of representatives from organizations, which have helped them and supported the Ashe County Christmas tree industry, including the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association, Ashe County local government, the NC Cooperative Extension, representatives from the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Office of Gov. Roy Cooper, the office of US Senator Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, the office of US Representative Virginia Fox, North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation and the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce.
Back in October, White House Superintendent of Grounds Dale Haney made the journey to Ashe County to make the selection for the First Lady’s Blue Room Christmas tree. After being in the choose and cut business since the beginning of his role, Haney chose a Fraser fir that stood just a little greater than 19 feet tall. The tree selected is said to be at least 30-years old, according to Estes.