Local tree farmers upset over artificial tree in RI State House


WEST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) — Two local tree farmers are not happy with the artificial Christmas tree at the State House, saying it breaks a long-standing Rhode Island tradition.

Members of the Rhode Island Christmas Tree Growers Association and co-owners of Leyden’s Tree Farm, Timothy and Matt Leyden, say the Gov. Gina Raimondo’s decision to switch from a real Christmas tree to an artificial one is a slap in the face.

“For the governor to not support local farmers, specifically Christmas tree growers, it hurts,” Timothy Leyden said during a taping of Dan Yorke State of Mind.

The Leyden brothers would like to organize a committee in the future that will pick a fresh tree from Rhode Island farms.

Raimondo announced Monday her decision to switch to an artificial, 18-foot Christmas tree.

“Due to conditions inside the State House, it’s challenging to keep a real tree alive and thriving from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day,” Raimondo said. “I want Rhode Islanders to be able to enjoy the State House Christmas decorations — especially the tree — for the entirety of the holiday season.”

The Balsam Hill tree cost $6,500 and was paid for with leftover fundraising money from the National Governors Association.

The Leydens say a same-size, fresh tree would cost $500, although, in years past, the tree was donated.

Raimondo says the state is not new to challenges with Christmas trees. In 2017, the State House tree died shortly before Christmas, among other mishaps.

Contrary to Raimondo’s assertion that caring for a real tree at the State House is challenging, the Leydens say maintaining a fresh tree is easy.

“If you give the tree a fresh cut, give it plenty of water, you don’t put a defoliant on the outside of the tree so it loses it’s needles like it did years ago, it’s not a problem to keep it in your house for a month or longer,” Matt Leyden said.

“I think it’s a size of laziness. It’s just so simple to maintain that tree, once it is up, once it’s decorated, someone needs to maintain and check the water level in the stand daily,” Timothy Leyden added.

The brothers say if they weren’t busy selling Christmas trees, they would consider rallying at the State House. But for now, they hope a real tree will once again be standing in the rotunda next year during the holiday season.

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