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Christmas tree farmers across the U.S. worry families like Villarreal's are slowly dwindling.Between 75 and 80 percent of Americans who have a Christmas tree now have an artificial one, and the $1 billion market for fake trees is growing at about 4 percent a year -- even though they can be reused again and again.Americans buy about 10 million artificial trees each year, said Thomas "Mac" Harman, CEO of Balsam Hill, the leading retailer of artificial Christmas trees. Harman is also the president of the American Christmas Tree Association, which does not disclose its membership but raised $70,000 in donations in 2016 for its work, which includes touting artificial trees.Most people buying artificial trees cite convenience, allergens and fire safety, he said.That's safer with an artificial tree, Harman said.Denise Shackleton got a real tree each season before switching to an artificial one. Harman says Christmas tree farmers are overestimating the threat to their industry from artificial trees.Many families now have both a real tree and an artificial tree, and small mom-and-pop tree farms that allow families to cut their own evergreen remain extremely popular, Harman said.
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