For the first time in its 47-year history, Daniken Tree Farm competed in the National Christmas Tree Association contest, which was held last weekend in Spring Grove, Ill.
The second-generation Christmas tree farm, located five miles west of Greenville, earned the right to compete in the contest by winning Grand Champion in the Illinois State Fair Christmas Tree contest last year.
The contest is held every two years with winners selected for Christmas 2015 and 2016.
David and Joey Daniken, the farm’s owners, entered an eight-foot Scotch pine that was planted in 2009. The tree was awarded second place in the pine category, competing against other Scotch and white pines from different parts of the country. This put the local tree into the top eight trees in the nation with a chance to send a tree to the vice president’s residence for display over the holidays.
The other second-place finishers included a blue spruce from Michigan, a Fraser fir from North Carolina, and a Douglas fir from Wisconsin. After rounds of convention and public votes, the Michigan and North Carolina trees were chosen as the reserve champions.
The champions of the contest were a Douglas fir from Pennsylvania and a balsam fir from Wisconsin. These champions will present a Christmas tree to the first lady at the White House, one this Christmas and the other in Christmas 2016.
According to the White House Historical Association, it was President Calvin Coolidge in 1923 who first presided over a public Lighting of the National Tree and in 1929 it was First Lady Lou Henry Hoover who established the tradition of the First Ladies decorating the National Tree for the Blue Room in the White House.
The Danikens were excited with their second-place finish in the pine category and thrilled to be in the running to take a tree to the nation’s capital.
“All the trees in the competition were extraordinary, and I didn’t know if our tree would be competitive at this level against much larger and more experienced farms, so to get a second place in this category lets us know we are doing things right on our farm,” David Daniken said.
Joey Daniken added: “Being voted on as one of the top eight trees in the nation, not only by industry leaders, but also by the public and other tree growers is a proud accomplishment for our farm. Scotch pine trees are a staple on our farm and our biggest seller.”
The Danikens said their trees are the result of a big team effort, spread over many years. More than 100 local people had a hand in growing the award-winning tree — and the others on the farm — all the way from seedlings.
About Daniken Tree Farm
Location: Five miles west of Greenville on Illinois Route 140.
Owners: David and Joey Daniken.
Experience: Joey Daniken graduated from Greenville High School and then SIUE, with a B.A. in English education. She has 19 years at Daniken Tree Farm and is an English teacher at Vandalia High School. David Daniken graduated from Greenville High School and then SIUE, with a B.A. in business entrepreneurship. He served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He has worked 41 years at Daniken Tree Farm, and 26 years at Daniken Builders.
Farm Size: Approximately 70 acres of trees with a population of 40,000 trees, a two-acre pumpkin patch, and two-acre corn maze.
Yearly sales: Between 5,000 and 6,000 trees per year; 1,000 wreaths per year; 500 cemetery decorations per year; and 24,000 pounds of pumpkins per year.
Employees: Between 25 and30 part-time employees.