MASON, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – On Tuesday, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Director Tim Boring and Chief of Staff Kathy Angerer, and representatives from the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs participated in a Trees for Troops event at Tannenbaum Farms in Mason, a sleepy little town about 20 minutes south east of Lansing.

Trees for Troops, a program of the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, provides free, farm-grown Christmas Trees to United States armed forces members in all branches of the military and their families, through donations, sponsorships, grants and the work of many volunteers.

MORE NEWS: Crashes Involving Pedestrians, Bikes Increasing

At Tannenbaum Farms, about 200 trees were loaded on a FedEx truck on Tuesday morning, headed to military personnel at several military bases in the country. Two other locations in the state also loaded trees for the project yesterday. In total, according to Mel Koelling, who owns and manages the tree farm with his wife, Laurie, Michigan growers contribute about 800 to 900 trees to this project and nationally about 15,000 trees are contributed every holiday season.

This was the third year that Tannenbaum Farms served as a loading site for the program. They were asked to serve as a collection location by the Michigan Christmas Tree Association. Prior to their selection as a collection site, they had delivered trees to another location in Allegan. The trees that were loaded at Tannenbaum Farms included Fraser Fir, Canaan Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce, Scotch Pine, White Pine and Douglas Fir.

For over 40 years, Tannenbaum Farms has been growing beautiful Christmas trees for families in the Mason area. A nationally recognized expert in the industry, Dr. Koelling taught and served in the Department of Forestry at Michigan State University for over 35 years. The farm was purchased in 1977 as an extension of Dr. Koelling’s professional interests and to establish a college fund for his children. The first planting in 1978 covered three acres; today, plantings cover approximately 100 acres of the 180-acre farm.

Koelling said about the Trees for Troops program, “We have participated in this program for several years, but our service as a collection center and  loading site is relatively recent. When asked to serve  in this capacity we were happy to participate. As a veteran, I believe in the objectives of the program; namely to express appreciation and gratitude for those who serve in the military. This program has been in operation since 2006 and has literally donated thousands of trees to military personnel. FedEx has generously transported trees from major Christmas tree production states since the program began. In the spirit of Christmas Christmas tree producers throughout the country are grateful to those who serve.”

MDARD Director Boring said in a press release about the event, ”I’m grateful for this opportunity to be able to give back to the hard-working men and women in military service, who protect us every day. Michigan food and agriculture is at the heart of so many of our holiday traditions and is a great opportunity for Michiganders to buy a local Christmas tree, as Michigan ranks as the third leading producer in the nation. The Trees for Troops program allows us to bring together the gift of local agriculture with the utmost respect for our military members. This opportunity is what the holiday season is all about.”

Brigadier General Scott House of the Michigan National Guard added, “Trees for Troops is wonderful initiative to spread the holiday spirit through the giving of free, Michigan-grown trees, to service members and their families all over the country. It is amazing to see the number of volunteers and support staff who donate their time to make sure these Michigan trees get delivered to military families in time for the holidays.”