DATCP: Sending Wisconsin christmas trees to military overseas

Contact: Jane Larson, [email protected], (608) 224-5005

Jim Dick, [email protected], Communications Director, (608) 224-5020

MADISON–With their son, SPC John R. Kopp, 11th Brigade Air Defense Artillery, stationed in Bahrain and facing his first Christmas away from home, Wisconsin Christmas tree growers Nancy and Tim Kopp decided to brighten his holidays with a real tree from their licensed farm, Kopp Forest Products, Neillsville.

“We wanted to send our son a little bit of Wisconsin and a whole bunch of love to celebrate the Christmas season. John has helped to plant, shear, harvest, ship and sell trees since he was old enough to walk. We feel especially blessed, so we decided to send a Christmas tree in honor and appreciation of his service to our country,” explained Nancy Kopp, John’s mother.

For other Wisconsin families who would like to send their loved ones a Wisconsin-grown Christmas tree, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection can help to assure the tree will be accepted overseas.

“Purchase a tree from a licensed Wisconsin Christmas tree grower whose farm has been issued a Plant Health Certificate,” explained Greg Helmbrecht, plant health specialist with DATCP. “The plant certificate means that trees from that farm have been inspected by our department and are cleared for shipping overseas.”

Because Christmas trees are an agricultural product, they must be accompanied by additional special paperwork when leaving the U.S. This paperwork, called a phytosanitary certificate, assures that the Christmas tree is not carrying insects or diseases that could be introduced into the destination country and the “phyto” as it is called, travels with the tree.

If you have a family member who is actively serving overseas in a branch of the U.S. Military or National Guard, and would like to send a Christmas tree overseas, do the following:
* Contact the U.S. Postal Service or a commercial shipping business to learn the size, weight and pricing requirements so you select the proper size tree.
* Visit a licensed, Wisconsin Christmas tree grower.
* Ask the grower if they have a Plant Health Certificate. If so, ask for a copy and tell the grower the tree is going overseas. Only growers with a PHC can send their trees out of the country.
* Contact Greg Helmbrecht, 608-224-4596, [email protected] and request a phytosanitary certificate. Explain that the tree is going to an active duty military family member overseas. There will be a small charge for the “phyto.”
* Once the phyto-certificate is issued, contact the shipper of your choice to send the tree.
* Make sure the phyto-certificate goes with the tree.

The Kopps shared some tips for choosing and shipping the tree:
* Any soft or supple-needled tree is best like a balsam or Fraser fir.
* Have the grower bundle the trees as tight as possible.
* Plan on 10 days to two weeks for delivery, so plan accordingly.

“Once the tree arrives at its final destination, the recipient should cut off about 1/4-1/2 inch disk from the bottom of the trunk and then place the tree in fresh water. Water the tree daily; a fresh tree can take up a surprising amount of water. Allow a day or so after unbundling before decorating to allow tree to resume its natural shape,” said Tim Kopp, John’s father.

“Wisconsin has about 1,000 Christmas tree growers that harvest about 1 million trees each year. We hope that some families will follow the example of Nancy and Tim Kopp and send a Wisconsin-grown tree to family member in the military to share their love and brighten their holiday away from home,” encourages Cheryl Nicholson, executive director of the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association.