AUSTIN - Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples marked the start of the Christmas holiday season today at the Ronald McDonald House of Austin where Texas growers donated Christmas trees and poinsettias.

"The Ronald McDonald House of Austin provides a loving home-away-from-home to families whose children are faced with critical injuries or life-threatening illnesses," Commissioner Staples said. "We hope these freshly cut Texas Christmas trees and poinsettias donated here today will make this house feel more like home to these families."

At the event, Commissioner Staples encouraged Texans to take advantage of the Lone Star State's choose-and-cut tree farms. Currently, Texas has 150 Christmas tree farms producing more than 200,000 trees annually. Sales of Texas Christmas trees generate about $12 million for the state's economy.

Poinsettias also give the Texas economy a boost. In 2007, growers sold just over 3 million pots of poinsettias, contributing $15 million in sales and placing Texas fifth in the nation for poinsettias.

For a list of Texas choose-and-cut tree farms, visit the Texas Department of Agriculture's Web site, http://www.picktexas.com/, or the Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association Web site at http://www.texaschristmastrees.com/.

Evergreen Farms Christmas Trees in Elginand theTexas Christmas Tree Growers Association donated the three Christmas trees; the Texas State Florists' Association contributed 20 poinsettias. Evergreen Farms also donated $1,000 to the Ronald McDonald House of Austin.