PITMAN - Exotic fir varieties drew approximately 130 Christmas tree farmers to Mahantongo Valley Farms Saturday for the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association's (PCTGA) summer meeting.

The tree farm, which boasts 28 varieties of firs, also hosted an event Friday for the Exotic Conifer Association, an international group focused on cultivating exotic firs.

Larry Snyder, co-owner of Mahantongo Valley Farms, said exotic firs, like the Korean/Corkbark fir and the Turkish fir, are becoming more important to Christmas Tree growers because of the changing environment.

"They're becoming difficult to grow," said Snyder. "We're looking at alternatives that grow better in these conditions."

Attendees of the PCTGA meeting were provided with plenty of opportunity to learn about exotic trees.

In addition to speakers lecturing on the cultivation of such trees, a tour of the farm wound through the tree fields.

The tour stopped at several different varieties of exotic firs. At each stop, Larry Downey, of Downey Tree Farm and Nursery in Cookshire, Quebec, shared knowledge of techniques that would lead to each tree growing into a picturesque piece of Christmas d├ęcor.

A visit to a segment of Korean fir, recognizable by a flash of white revealed when its needles are lifted, brought great admiration for two perfectly conical, evenly branched trees.

Andrew Haas, a relative associated with Mahantongo Valley Farms, said these two trees may be removed from the property and taken somewhere for horticulturists to use them to cultivate a new stock.

A tent at the base of the farm was the site for other activities, including lessons on creating professional grade wreaths and grafting limbs.

In addition to Snyder and his wife, Joanne, Mahantongo Valley Farms includes Aaron and Sarah Snyder and Lydia and Andrew Bomgardner.