By Madison Fisler Lewis
Dec. 1, 2014. If you did any driving through the High Country over the weekend, you likely noticed a familiar fir gracing the tops of vehicles coming down the mountain. The mountains are right smack in the midst of Christmas tree season, and the owners of the local choose-and-cut farms couldn’t be happier.
“The weekend before Thanksgiving, the weekend of Thanksgiving and the weekend following Thanksgiving are the busiest for us,” said Thad Taylor, owner of Big Ridge Tree Farm in Banner Elk.
“We have probably sold close to 1,000 trees so far.”
And the season is just getting started. With Thanksgiving now officially behind us, folks are coming in droves from off the mountain and from down the road to get a fresh cut Christmas tree to enjoy until the end of the month.
“I think choose and cut farms are a different experience from choosing a tree from a lot,” Taylor said. “People just love what we offer. People will bring their kids, grandkids, the whole family and spend hours here. Where you could spend a few minutes and get a tree off of a lot, here your kids can play in the field, you can take your time and you can enjoy a few hours here. It is an experience.”
Though Taylor mentioned that the bulk of purchases take place on his farm around Thanksgiving and the first weekend of December, there is still a good chunk of folks who wait until later in the month to purchase their trees.
“People will still come up to get a tree right up until Christmas Eve,” Taylor said. “Some of the people who have second homes up here wait until Christmas Eve and get their tree, it is a tradition.”
In the High Country, Christmas trees are big business. According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, North Carolina produces 20 percent of the nation’s Christmas trees each year. More than 37 million trees grow on 32,000 acres in North Carolina alone, making the state second behind Oregon in Christmas tree production. All of this is made possible by the dedicated farmers in the High Country, who spend years cultivating their crop to make every holiday special.
If you have never experienced the joys of choose-and-cut traditions, instead of making a chore of dragging home a pre-cut tree this year, grab the family and your coats and head out to a local farm. It will not only create lasting memories for you and your loved ones for years to come, but the practice also helps to support the local Christmas tree farmers in the High Country area.
For a directory of Watauga County Christmas tree farms, click here.
For a directory of Ashe County Christmas tree farms, click here.
For a directory of Avery County Christmas tree farms, click here.
Photos by Ken Ketchie