Every Christmas, the Blue Room in the White House is adorned with a tree from a tree farm which wins the top prize of the annual meeting of the National Christmas Tree Growers Association.

Pennsylvania tree growers have won the honors numerous times more than growers in any other state..

There's a rule that after winning, you can't compete for four years.

Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Mahoning Township won the glory in 2006. The next time it was eligible to compete, in 2010, it won again selected the best of all the tree growers in the country who competed.

The next time it is eligible to supply the White House with the tree is 2014.

This year, the tree was to have been provided by a grower in New Jersey. The White House staff couldn't find the proper size tree at the tree farm in the Garden State. Knowing the fine trees they've gotten in the past, they contacted Chris Botek, owner of Crystal Spring. Botek rose to the challenge.

So, for the third time in seven years, the tree for the Blue Room of the White House is coming from Carbon County.

In 2000, the tree was provided by Paul Shealer in Schuylkill County. In 2001, the tree was from a Pennsylvania farm.

So five trees in 13 years at the White House came from Pennsylvania, including one from Schuylkill County and three from Carbon County.

It's not only these winning tree farms that have established themselfs as a cut above the rest.

Many of the local tree farms attract return customers from as far away as New York City, Baltimore, and other cities.

Most of the local growers have been in business a long time; in a lot of cases, for generations.

So, if you're going to get a live tree for Christmas, why wouldn't you get one from a local tree grower? You know it's fresh. You can cut it down yourself or have the tree farm personnel cut it. You can pick the size. You can see it before it's bundled. You don't have transportation costs added. You're supporting a local merchant.

Freshness is important regarding a Christmas tree. If without water too long, an evergreen can become dry and then possibly be at risk for fire.

Local tree growers work year-round in caring for their product. They take great pride in their work.

Most tree farms start their local selling season on Wednesday.

Do you need further convincing about the quality of the local trees?

How about this, most of the trees purchased by the state government for the Capitol and state offices have been purchased in Carbon County for 18 consecutive years.

Local tree growers are obviously doing something right.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com