White Pine, the Christmas tree I have always coveted. Soft, willowy, delicate - it's finally stuffed in my trunk to haul home for the holidays.
Hortons Tree Farms, located in and around Stouffville, has great tree choices – the bold and beautiful Scotch Pine is perfect for large homes, my smaller White Pine great for inner-city dwellers. The hardy northlander White Spruce is a familiar sight to Ontario campers hiking the Canadian Shield, the Balsam Firportrays the dark green forests of New Brunswick and the Douglas Fir is as imposing as the province of British Columbia from which it most famously hails. Don’t worry, all these trees are native to Ontario too.
Brian Horton, like his father, is a Forester. He tells me the family's tree farms are one of the first cut-your-own operations in Ontario and that these lands have been farmed since before Confederation - that’s 1867. I can believe it as his Magic Hill Tree Farm I visited is a down-to-earth operation, rustic, friendly, with hot cider and a fire pit. And yes, mum did knit that hat that Brian is sporting. While we were there it even snowed, which my 3-year old thought was fantastic until it went down the back of his neck.
Brian Horton, one of three brothers continuing the tree farm family business
Tree farms have always mystified me. Open for a month or two each year families leave with trees that owners like the Hortons have invested 7-20 years in. But with lots of acres to rotate plantings and cuttings (30,000 trees on 300 acres for the Hortons) its works. And beyond providing local jobs to students during summer pruning, Brian and three generations of his family have turned their lands into conservation areas providing ecological goods and services to their community such as erosion control and habitat for wildlife. When I visited we signed petitions to increase protection of the Oak Ridges Moraine, an important geological water resource which helps ensures millions in this region have a clean water source.
Earthroots team Nikos Kapetaneas, John Wilson and Tanzil Islam, collecting signatures to increase protection for the Oak Ridges Moraine. And drinking a cup of cider or two.
Because my White Pine is probably at least 10 years old, I will make sure to extend its life this year by leaning it against the house in the backyard for birds to nest and maybe stop that draft in my kitchen from poor inslutation. I also hear that conservation groups use ex-Christmas trees in lakes to provide hiding spots for young fish to increase their survival rates. And of course, your town or city will pick up your tree to chip’em and spread them around parks and boulevards improving the soils and health of local trees and plants.
If you missed a visit to Hortons this Christmas season, they will be there next year. Better yet, the Hortons maple syrup operations open March 10, 2012! Pancakes included.
- Shelley Petrie, Program Director