Tree

Lots of live-cut Christmas trees suffer the same fate in the weeks after Christmas.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that in 2017, the latest year for which data are available, Americans cut down 15,094,678 Christmas trees.

I’m always doubtful about such precise statistics. Who was keeping count? Did they maybe miss a tree or two?

That many trees, planted neatly together, would require about 19.7 square miles of land, according to the Journal. I can picture the Journal guys, sitting around in their offices on Fifth Avenue (which New Yorkers try to convince old guys like me should be called the Avenue of the Americas) and chuckle that nobody’s going to challenge that number.

Our huge Fairmount Park, which has quite a few trees here and there, claims to be only 6.4 square miles.

But the Wall Street Journal most likely has access to highly sophisticated tree-estimating procedures beyond the scope of this publication, so who am I to question their statistics?

By “Christmas trees,” I presume that the Journal means evergreens generally used for decorative purposes at Christmas time. In a nation of some 330 million population, even allowing for the many who do not need to celebrate Christmas by assassinating evergreen trees, 15 million trees seems like a modest number.

Perhaps more alarming is the New York Times report that there are presently 173,656 fewer farms in the United States today than there were 20 years ago.

If Americans ever desist in chopping down evergreens for decorative purposes, it would only damage a few groups such as the tinsel industry. But reduction in the producers of meat, vegetables, fruit, grain and milk would be potentially bad news for just about everybody.

The Times seems to lay statistical blame on the problem, reporting that the average age of farm owners and managers was 58.6 in 2017, more than eight years older than in the 1980s.

If luring more young men to adopt agriculture as a career will avert some sort of social disaster in the future, our society should begin addressing the problem soon.

I worked on my uncle’s farm for a few summers as a teenager, and learned why farm work may not lure many young men into agriculture as an occupation. It takes up most of your time.

Cows, pigs, chickens and other animal inhabitants of farms insist on being fed seven days a week, and cannot be turned off for weekends, holidays or vacations. Also, cleaning up after them is one of the least enjoyable jobs available anywhere.

Fruit, grain and vegetables are only a bit less demanding. They have to be tended regularly, and they, not the farmer, decide when they need to be picked, gathered or dug up.

Growing a nice, quiet forest of the aforementioned Christmas trees is somewhat less demanding. But it takes many years to get them to the stage where they can be harvested and sold to folks who want to hang some lights and baubles on them for a few weeks and then trash them.

 Visit columnist Jim Smart’s web site at jamessmartsphiladelphia.com.

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