Bringing an extra dose of sustainably harvested holiday cheer to campus, this year marks the 33rd iteration of the Yale Student Chapter of the Society of American Foresters’ Christmas tree fundraiser.
The trees, primarily Colorado blue spruce, are grown in the Yale-Myers forest in northeastern Connecticut, one of Yale’s seven forests and Yale’s largest piece of property. Throughout each year, members of SAF plant, prune and tend to the trees, which are then cut down by students and brought back to New Haven in December. In addition to Christmas trees, the organization sells wreaths made from laurel branches, an evergreen shrub found in abundance in the Yale-Myers forest.
“The really cool thing about this sale is that it gets what we do as foresters, which is a small contingent of the environmental school, in front of the whole school,” said Lucyann Murray FES’17, SAF’s treasurer. “I think it ties the school closer to forestry and towards understanding what [forestry] can mean to an individual.”
Each tree is sold for $7 per foot, and the money raised through the fundraiser goes towards field trips and conferences for forestry students. The proceeds average a few thousand dollars each year and have been fairly consistent over the years, Murray said.
Forestry professor Mark Ashton FES ’85 ’90, who was involved in the Christmas tree fundraiser as a graduate student, said 1,000 Colorado blue spruce trees were first planted in the Yale-Myers Forest in 1982.
The first sale, which was held in 1984, featured 100 trees bought from a farm in Vermont. The first sale of trees from the Yale-Myers Forest took place in 1988, he said.
Ashton said the fundraiser has changed little over the years in terms of the number of trees harvested and profits received. However, he added that the event remains important because it enables students to grow trees for a sustainable enterprise.
Given that more than half of each batch of trees planted will either not survive or grow in poor form, the group plants about 200 trees and sustainably harvests 50 to 70 trees each year, explained Aaron Lefland FES’17, one of the fundraiser’s head organizers.
Much of the students’ work involves maintaining enough growing space for the trees, and ensuring that they are not competing with grasses and vines, Lefland said. The trees that are sold are mostly between four and 14 feet, and are usually ready to sell 10 years after they were planted.
Proceeds from the sale have funded the students’ travel to the annual Society of American Foresters Conference, held in Madison, Wisconsin this year, as well as smaller conferences, such as the Northeast Natural History Conference. Having students at these conferences is a signal that Yale’s forestry program is thriving, Lefland said.
“I like that this fundraiser gives us a reason to go up to the forest for a fun event,” Lefland said. “A lot of the times we’re up there on field trips or doing research. Although it’s still a work day, we can do things at our leisure and hang out — it’s a fun social event as well.”
Deanna Cox FES ’17, a first-time Christmas tree buyer, said she bought the tree to support her friends in SAF and to sustainably uphold the tradition of having a tree for Christmas.
The SAF started accepting pre-orders for this year’s trees on Oct. 10 and will harvest the trees on Dec. 2.