For the second time, a local grower is providing the National Christmas Tree in the White House in Washington D.C.

Chris Botek, an owner of Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Mahoning Township, officially presented the tree to First Lady Michelle Obama and her children on Friday.

In 2006, a similar presentation occurred by members of the Botek family to then First Lady Laura Bush.

Not too long prior to this, the National Christmas Tree was grown by Paul Shealer of Auburn, who for many years was the Penn State Agricultural Agent in Carbon County until his retirement earlier this year. This year, Shealer finished second to Crystal Spring in the competition for providing the National Tree in competition that involves growers from all over the nation. This year's competition was held in North Carolina. In 2006 the competition occurred in Seattle, Washington.

In other words, the number one tree in that national competition was from Carbon County and the number two tree was from Schuylkill County.

Three National Christmas trees coming from either Carbon or Schuylkill County is quite a testament to the type of product this area has to offer. It's not only Crystal Spring and Paul Shealer who grow fantastic Christmas trees. We have a lot of local growers who take much pride in their products.

What's really great is that you or I can drive directly onto the farms, select our own trees, and pay a substantially lower fee for the tree than what people in many other areas pay. Just yesterday there was an article in the New York News of one grower bringing trees to the Big Apple and charging as much as $900!

While that might be the extreme, there's no argument that you will get the best value for your dollar by going to local growers for your personal Christmas tree. You are guaranteed your tree is fresh, has received an incredible amount of care as it was growing, and you can see the tree before it is even cut or bundled.

Also, you're helping the local economy.

There's nothing like the aroma of a fresh-cut tree in your home to put you in the holiday spirit.

Consider a real tree. Then visit any local Christmas tree farm where you'll get personal service, a great bargain, and the perfect tree that you picked-out yourself.

Most local growers also utilize branches to make wreaths and other decorative items which just might add an extra touch to you holiday arrangements.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com