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Enhancing the Spirit of Christmas

The Manitoba Christmas Tree Growers Association offers an 'experience' as well as a tree.

The Manitoba Christmas Tree Growers Association (MCTGA) was established in the late 80s with a mandate "To Support and Assist our Membership by Providing Information on the Christmas Tree Industry and to Promote the Benefits of "Farm Grown" Christmas Trees to the General Public in Manitoba."

To facilitate this mandate the association engages in many activities. The MCTGA distributes information, including the Choose & Cut Directory, from a display booth in the St. Vital Shopping Centre during November and December . This Directory outlines where people can go to cut down their own Christmas tree. In 1998, over 500 copies of it were distributed through the display and from the MCTGA office. MCTGA also placed newspaper ads in local papers promoting the availability of the directory and where people can go for a "real" Manitoba Christmas tree.

In 1998, there were 11 members of the association marketing their Christmas trees and each location offered unique activities for families to enjoy. Attractions included hot chocolate and apple cider drinks, fire pits, reindeer, sleigh rides, a sale of arts and crafts, and toboggan slides.  Association members believe offering the public the "experience" as well as the tree.

The association distributes a quarterly newsletter to its members. Helpful information on growing Christmas trees in Manitoba, insects and diseases, and association news are all included.

Operation Christmas Tree, a research and development project, was started in 1997. This program offers members trees to grow, free of charge. The only commitment the member has to make to receive the trees is to report how well the trees did - or didn't do. Specific species are planted in various locations around the province and information is compiled and recorded each year.

Other services offered by the Association include one day specialty workshops that are offered to both members and non-members. Topics range from planting techniques to shearing demonstrations to transplanting. There is also a help line to connect members with questions to members with the answers. Established growers who are members of the association are always willing to help a new grower get started.

The association has given the honour during the 1998 Christmas season of placing a tree in the Governor-General's house in Ottawa. The Canadian Forestry Association called the MCTGA with the request and two days later a beautiful eight-foot Scots Pine was bound for Ottawa. The reason Manitoba has chosen was because Swan River was the Forestry Capital of Canada for that year.

The number of locally grown Christmas trees sold in Manitoba is only a small percentage of the overall number sold in the province each year. In 1998, members of MCTGA sold over 3,600 trees.The number of trees sold increases each year, as does the number of members who are ready to market their trees.

The goal of increasing public awareness of the environmental and economic benefits of growing and buying Manitoba grown trees is a major focus of this association. MCTGA may be small but the message is strong. Stay Real - Buy Manitoba.