Carlton County grower says 'thank you' with Trees for TroopsFor the fourth year, the owners of Chub Lake Tree Farm near Carlton are participating in Trees for Troops, a nationwide effort by tree growers to provide Christmas trees to families who have someone deployed overseas.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
CARLTON — Jim and Beverly Whorton’s “thank yous” are about 7 feet tall, green and fragrant.
For the fourth year, the owners of Chub Lake Tree Farm near Carlton are participating in Trees for Troops, a nationwide effort by tree growers to provide Christmas trees to families who have someone deployed overseas.
“It’s just one way to say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ ” said Beverly Whorton, 69.
This year, some of those “thank yous” are staying close to home.
Families of many of the 131 Minnesota National Guard troops deployed in Kuwait from the Duluth-based 1st Squadron, 94th Cavalry, with units in Hibbing, Pine City and Cloquet, are getting trees through the program, said Sgt. Brad Little. He’s with the training office for the 1-94 CAV’s Cloquet-based “Crazy Troop.”
It’s called “Crazy Troop,” Little said, because “we kind of have a reputation for doing our own thing.”
But since May, Crazy Troop and the rest of the 1-94 CAV have been involved in the serious business of providing escorts into and out of Iraq as troops and supplies are being brought home, said Little, 29. He knows what overseas duty is like, having been deployed to Iraq for a year himself. He returned late in 2007.
“Programs like Trees for Troops really show us when we’re over there that there are people thinking of us back here,” Little said. “It kind of warms you up a little bit inside knowing that people care about you and people are taking care of the families.”
Providing a Christmas tree is one way of letting those families know they aren’t forgotten, Little said.
Although many of the trees will be distributed locally, more than 100 will go to families of troops based out of Fort Riley, Kan. A FedEx trailer sat at the front edge of the Whortons’ 8-acre tree farm on Saturday, during their busiest weekend of the year. The tree farm’s young employees and volunteers gradually filled the trailer with trees.
FedEx provides the trailer and the shipping at no charge, Beverly Whorton said.
The program was established nationally by the National Christmas Tree Association in 2005, she said, and is within reach of providing its 100,000th tree this year. Last year, Chub Lake Tree Farm became the first in Minnesota to be a trailer location, said Jim Whorton, 69.
“There are only 29 of these locations in the United States that go to the effort and guarantees that it requires,” he said. “You’ve got to put a lot out on the line by July to be one.”
Other area tree growers bring trees to Chub Lake for the cause, and the Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars help out, the Whortons said. So do members of Crazy Troop, although fewer are available this year because of the deployment. Chub Lake customers also contribute.
It costs $25 per tree, Beverly Whorton said, with $5 of that going to the Christmas Spirit Foundation, the charitable arm of the National Christmas Tree Association.
The Whortons started the farm in 1985. They returned to their native Missouri in 1997 but make the 500-mile trip to Carlton several times a year and still spend about 100 days in their small home on the tree farm, Jim Whorton said. He’d like to see another area tree farm take over as the trailer location, but has had no takers.
In fact, he thinks there should be more than one location in Minnesota, and more than 29 in the nation. None of the 29 is in the richly forested areas of Washington, Idaho and Oregon.
“There are people out there that grow hundreds of thousands of trees, but they just didn’t want to be bothered with it,” Whorton said. “Well, I’ve been in the military, back in the ’60s, ’70s. I was in the Guard for nine years, and it just seemed like it needed to be done.”