Old-Fashioned Family Tradition Lives On

Story by Anne Baker

November 18, 2010 Issue


Let the search begin: as Thanksgiving approaches, so does the season of choosing the ideal Christmas tree. While it’s likely many will not set off on such an elaborate journey as the Griswold family’s hunt for a tree in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, it would still be nice to have that “a-ha!” moment as you stumble upon that lush, perfectly-sized evergreen, cut it down and strap it to your vehicle.

“We have a great crop this year,” said Jennifer Greene, executive director of the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association. “The drought really hasn’t affected anything—usually if it does have an effect, it’s on the smaller trees.”

North Carolina has 1,600 growers producing an estimated 50 million Fraser firs—the state’s most popular tree—on 25,000 acres for use as Christmas trees. Watauga County alone has 29 Choose and Cut locations.

With so many options, how do consumers choose a tree?

“As far as selection, of course Fraser firs are what North Carolina is known for,” Greene said. “Many people look at color, taper and density, but everyone has their own personal choices, so most importantly, pick what you like.”

The Choose and Cut Christmas Tree Program begins in earnest the Friday after Thanksgiving, but Greene said there are several farms that will open this weekend.

“It seems to be that people are getting their trees earlier and earlier,” she said. “The weekend after Thanksgiving is always the biggest, though.”

Doug and Kathy Clawson of Clawson’s Choose & Cut, located at 4944 Highway 194 North in Boone, have been open officially since November 1 and have already seen customers coming in to purchase trees.

The farm serves hot chocolate, cider, coffee and cookies, offers hayrides that take visitors through the hills where the Christmas trees are grown and sells wreaths and garlands in addition to the trees.

“We also have a lot of old antique farm and home equipment in our headquarters building,” said Doug Clawson, owner of the farm. “My wife, Kathy, and her sister can different kinds of fruits, jellies and preserves, and we have those for sale in the building.”

Also open in Watauga County is Swinging Bridge Farm, located at 711 Old Glade Road in Deep Gap. The farm received its name in May 2005 after owner Chuck Lieberman built a 48-foot swinging bridge linking two blueberry fields on the property.

Chuck and his wife, Eleanor, offer something different in addition to the Fraser firs: live Christmas mini orange trees, grown in a passive solar orangery.

In Avery County, Sugar Plum Farms, located off Highway 19 East in Plumtree, offers thousands of trees for customers to choose from.

“We try to grow the best trees in Western North Carolina so customers can make a lifetime memory,” said owner Jim Pitts.

The farm also caters to families and serves apple cider, hot chocolate and marshmallows visitors can roast at a fire pit; hayrides are available, and a gift shop is located on the premises.

“We’ve got a little bit of everything,” Pitts added.

Many of the other Choose and Cut locations also accommodate families with refreshments, hayrides and restrooms on the premises.

For more information on choosing a Christmas tree, call the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association at 828-262-5826 or click to www.ncchristmastrees.com. Individual links with information on county associations are also available at that site.