Recently, I was browsing Facebook and noticed several people asking where they could find a natural Christmas tree in La Porte County. There were all sorts of answers and you don't have to go too far to find a beautiful, natural, locally-grown tree.

John Hensler owner of Christmas Trees & Nursery, 5715 N. 750 E., Hamlet, IN, 46532, said, "There's no reason to feel guilty about taking home a live spruce, fir or pine that has been harvested specifically for the holidays. Christmas trees are a crop just like any other agricultural product, such as potatoes, broccoli or corn, and they're completely natural and biodegradable. Most farmers plant up to three seedlings for every tree that is harvested. And best of all, tree farms not only enhance the beauty of our hillsides, meadows and back roads, they create a lush habitat for all manner of wildlife, big and small, which is a lovely gift for the planet in and of itself.

"But if I buy a fresh tree, aren't I contributing to deforestation?" I asked Hensler.

"Nope," he said. "These plants are farmed specifically to be Christmas trees. They are typically a low pesticide crop. In fact, you're supporting local agriculture when you buy one locally. After the holidays, trim the boughs and use them to blanket perennial beds and shrubs that need protection from harsh winter winds. Chip the entire tree and use the wood chips to mulch flower beds or to cushion garden paths. Place a tree on the edge of your property, where it can provide shelter for small mammals and overwintering birds."

Helping you select a beautiful Christmas tree at Hensler's Nursery is an activity they love sharing with you every year. Hensler said, "Often we see people agonizing over a tree because they are looking for the perfect tree. A natural tree has a personality that will be a benefit to your ornaments and a new tree every year will always look different. Don't get bogged down with the idea of a perfect tree."

Joanna Clindaniel from Egolf's Christmas Tree Farm, 14594 S. 700 W., Wanatah, IN, 46390 said, "We have been very busy preparing for this year trying to figure out all the things that mom did. We still can't figure out how she did it all and kept everything straight.  We will be opening the farm the weekend after Thanksgiving.  Next year we will celebrate our 60th anniversary at the farm." Shirley Egolf, Joanna's mom, passed away this past year and the entire Indiana Christmas Tree Association felt the loss.

Dudeck's Pine Country, 9255 N. 300 E., Rolling Prairie, IN, 46371 is located in the Hesston area. Greg Dudeck told me, "We have been in continuous business for 50 years and four generations of the Dudeck family. My grandfather (Ray) started the farm as a peach farmer, but the winter got bad for several years in a row. There was late frost for several years and after four years he decided to plant Christmas trees. That was around 1956. First he opened a lot in Michigan City, then in the late 1960's he opened a lot in La Porte. The natural progression of this business was to move all sales to the farm. My dad (Wayne) had a vision to sell u-cut at the farm. Now my son (Brandon) is working the farm as a full time job. My wife (Ronda) and I have full time jobs outside the farm, but I help Brandon around the farm. Ronda and I do the marketing and Ronda has gift shop featuring local crafts. She also maintains a snack bar with hot dogs, hot chocolate and other goodies."

We encourage you to bring your family to one of the many Christmas Tree Farms and they will provide the ambiance. Your family can select the perfect Christmas tree for your home or if you would rather let them choose a tree for you, most farms have a selection of freshly cut trees.

For a complete list of our local Christmas Tree Farms please stop by our office at 4073 S Franklin Street (Marquette Mall) in Michigan City, call 219-634-2650 or access this link: http://bit.ly/1AcFexQ.

Contact Jane Daley, La Porte County Convention & Visitors Bureau community relations manager, at (219) 872-5055 or jane@michigancitylaporte.com, or visit www.michigancitylaporte.com.

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