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Natural attraction

Christmas tree farms around the state allow families to bond over yuletide customs
Story and photos by Morgan Graham 11/18/2020

 

It's Christmas time across Tennessee and member Co-ops are celebrating in many ways. Keith Farmer, Maury Farmers Co-op general manager, celebrates their new store opening and Christmas by dressing-up like Santa on Saturdays during December.
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With the arrival of December, Christmas trees are going up in homes across Tennessee. Decorating the tree is a tradition for most families as they slow the hectic pace of the holidays. Nothing can replace the opportunity to share laughs and memories while sorting through old ornaments and stringing lights on the most iconic symbol of the season — the Christmas tree.

But for families like the Gilmers, who operate Falcon Ridge Farm Christmas tree farm in Toone in Hardeman County, and the Faircloths, who operate Pinewood Christmas Tree Farm in Franklin, Christmas has an additional meaning. During the holiday season, these families strive to make sure others have the perfect live tree around to make those precious memories.

“It’s great to see the same families year after year and watch their kids grow,” says Bart Gilmer, who runs the farm alongside his parents. “After a while, it’s like a family reunion when families come to get their trees. It’s also fun to make new friends every year.”

Once a Tennessee Walking Horse trainer in Shelby County, Ray Gilmer and his wife, Mary Ellen, decided to reevaluate the direction of their farm. With an overwhelming desire to spend more time close to family, they decided to leave the horse training business, which required lots of travel to shows, and focus on developing a different direction for their farm.

The Gilmers planted their first Christmas trees in 2009 in hopes of creating an agritourism venture that would bring customers to their farm. This year they have over 4,000 trees planted, including six species: Virginia pine, white pine, Murray Cypress, Carolina Sapphire, Blue Ice Cypress, and Leyland Cypress.

“It takes about five years for these types of trees to grow large enough to become good Christmas trees and be able to handle the weight of the ornaments,” says Ray, a customer of Mid-South Farmers Co-op’s Bolivar store. “To keep a reliable stock of harvestable trees available for each Christmas season, we usually plant 800 to 1,200 seedlings each winter.”

A visit to Falcon Ridge during Christmas includes a wagon-wide over the creek and through the woods to the field where the perfect tree stands waiting to be cut,

taken home, and decorated. The Gilmers will help cut the tree or customers can

do it themselves.

After the tree is loaded, there are still plenty of activities for kids and parents to enjoy, like spending a few minutes in a petting zoo, exploring the playground, or enjoying some warm hot coca by a campfire. 

Middle Tennessee tree farmers Jamie and Laura Faircloth started their Christmas tree operation in 2016 after a search for land resulted in a move from Nashville to Franklin. After many years of just dreaming of owning their own farm, the family finally put down roots and started Pinewood Christmas Tree Farm right off Interstate 840.

The first year, the Faircloths planted 2,000 white pine and Murray Cypress trees. However, beginner’s luck wasn’t with them.  They lost all of their Murray Cypress trees because of the fall drought in 2016.

“This was tough, but it didn’t discourage us,” says Jamie, a customer of Williamson Farmers Co-op. “We learned from the setback, went back to the drawing board, and decided to grow the trees in pots for a year before transplanting them in ground.”

Jamie says the time in pots guarantees that the young trees receive proper water and fertilizer and gives them a better chance of survival.

“While raising trees may be difficult, it is worth the work when you see a family’s joy as they find a perfect tree for their home,” says Jamie. “Each Christmas season, we’re excited for the first day we get to watch a family discover their tree on our farm.”

Since the Faircloth’s don’t have any cut-your-own trees ready for the 2020 season, they are offering pre-cut Christmas trees for sale.

“Our goal isn’t only to sell a Christmas tree,” says Laura Faircloth. “It’s to give people a chance to make a memory with their family or create new traditions. My holiday memories are a big part of why we decided to start a Christmas tree farm.”

To locate a Christmas tree farm near you, visit https://tennesseechristmastrees.org/ and use the “Find a Farm” tool.



 
 
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