A locally grown Christmas tree will grace the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond this holiday season.
Clouse’s Pine Hill Farm in Frederick County has produced a conifer deemed worthy of being placed in the Executive Mansion, the oldest occupied governor’s home in the United States. The family business received the honor after winning a Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association (VCTGA) competition. The trees were judged in Blacksburg based on criteria such as color, fullness and trunk straightness.
Governor Glenn Youngkin was scheduled to accept the tree grown in Frederick County during a ceremony Sunday. Ryan Clouse, second-generation Christmas tree grower and gardener, said: “We go in around noon. They will have the governor and first lady and representatives from the forest department there.”
“The Grand Champion tree and Grand Champion wreath represent the state in the governor’s mansion,” Clouse said.
The barrier to entry into commercial tree cultivation is particularly pronounced because of the time it takes for trees to reach maturity – 10 years in most cases. The 8-foot-tall Frederick County conifer, for example, was planted at the farm on Green Spring Road near DeHaven about a decade ago. It was the overall winner of the competition and one of two chosen to decorate the mansion.
“My parents have been growing trees since 1977, so it’s nice to finally win this competition,” said Clouse, who is also president of the VCTGA. “You’re excited.”
The tree will be placed in the Youngkin family’s private chambers, while a Fraser fir grown in mountainous Grayson County will occupy the public gathering space at the front of the mansion.
The tradition of selecting a tree for the governor’s family through the VCTGA competition dates back years. The ceremony is designed to showcase the hard work of producers in the state while also reminding people of the importance of buying Christmas trees from local growers – which fuels the growth of the state and local economy.
At Clouse’s Pine Hill Farm, where tree cultivation began in 1977 when Ron and Roberta Clouse allowed students to plant Scotch and White Pine trees on their Cross Junction property for a class project, a new batch of trees was harvested each year. Seeing the trees thrive there, the couple bought a larger farm in 1986 to plant a greater variety of trees.
Now people from all over the region can choose from around 15,000 trees during the holidays.
Clouse Pine Hill Farm remains a family run business. According to the company’s website, Ron and Roberta still run the farm with the help of Ryan, his wife Mandy, and daughters Marissa and Rebekah.
Youngkin took office in January 2022, so this is his first vacation at the governor’s mansion. Past governors have often used the tree lighting ceremony as an opportunity to highlight the importance of Virginia farmers.
Virginia’s agriculture and logging industries together make up the state’s No. 1 industry, Clouse said. The VCTGA recently added an advertising panel to generate interest from potential breeders and a research panel to gather data on the industry. There are two commercial Christmas tree operations in Frederick County and four in Clarke County. The biggest competition for tree growers is artificial trees, which consumers are buying more and more depending on the market trend.
“Supporting local industry is important. And we think the experience of coming to the farm with your family and picking a tree is great,” Clouse said.