'O Tannenbaum': Christmas tree farms provide hands-on experience for families
by Marie Nesmith
Dec 09, 2012 | 3848 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Christmas Tree Farms
Travis Cochran measures Christmas trees at Young Road Christmas Tree Farm. The farm is located at 139 Young Road in Cartersville. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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For its owner Travis Cochran, Young Road Christmas Tree Farm provides an interactive, festive experience for families to partake in year after year.

Situated on about 5 acres at 139 Young Road, Cartersville, the business offers residents the opportunity to choose and cut their own conifer. Operating from 10 a.m. to dark each day through Dec. 25, the farm carries Leyland cypress, Eastern red cedar, Virginia pine and white pine.

“It’s just [a] tradition [for some families],” Cochran said, about the overall tree farm experience. “It’s fun to come out with the family and look around and take some pictures with the trees. They laugh and play around. It’s just something fun for the family — that’s about the only reason I’ve still got [the farm] going really, is just to keep the tradition alive.

“[So people will have an option] other than to just go pick out a tree like it’s a piece of merchandise you were buying from a store,” he said, referring to precut trees. “There’s no emotion tied to it, it’s more or less pick something out that’s set out for you as opposed to looking around for something yourself. It’s just something fun to do. ... You just pick one out and try to have a hack at it and see if you can cut it down. If they can’t make it all the way through, I’ll come help them out and I’ll saw it down for them.”

With farm-grown Christmas tree purchases outnumbering artificial ones by more than a 3-to-1 margin, according to the National Christmas Tree Association, many residents will head to area tree farms and lots over the next couple of weeks.

Along with Young Road Christmas Tree Farm, numerous other “cut your own” operations are listed on www.pickyourownchristmastree.org, including Noel Forest Christmas Tree Farm in Cartersville. Offering Leyland cypress trees from 1-foot to more than 20 feet tall, Noel Forest is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day through Christmas Eve. The 40-acre Cartersville farm is located in between the Cartersville Golf Driving Range and Cracker Barrel Restaurant on Highway 20. Owned by Frank Gelzer, Noel Forest is operated by his Equity Management Co.

“[It is] a family affair,” said Equity Management Co. Controller Jeanine Callan, adding Noel Forest sells about 300 trees, mostly 6- to 7-foot-tall, each holiday season. “They go up there and [manager Moses Garcia] gives them a ride on the hayride-like wagon. ... He’ll drive you all through the trees and let you pick the place where you think you want to go. Then he leaves you and he comes back in 15, 20 minutes, whatever you [need].

“He’ll let you cut it down or, if you find one, he will come cut it down for you if it’s an older person or somebody who just can’t do it. But mostly, it’s a family [activity] that you can [do] with your kids and the kids can really run through the trees and wear themselves out, play hide-and-seek and all that. And you can tell him to come back and get you in an hour if you want.”

Whether families opt for a “cut-your-own” tree or a precut conifer, there are several tips they can follow to help ensure their trees survive the holidays.

“Fresh or precut, your Christmas tree should last the holidays,” stated Bartow County Extension Coordinator Paul J. Pugliese in his article titled “Merry Christmas Trees.” “If you want to make sure your Christmas tree is fresh, cut it down yourself. But if you can’t, you can still make sure the tree you pick stays fresh and merry until next year.

“If you go to a cut-your-own farm, you know it’s fresh. You won’t find a fresher, healthier tree anywhere else. Georgia has more than 100 Christmas tree farms. To find the ones closest to you, visit the Georgia Christmas Tree Association website at www.gacta.com. Buying locally also helps support our farmers in Georgia. Christmas tree farms have been in decline in recent years. The rise in land values leaves little room for growing holiday trees for profit. We can’t provide even half the amount of Christmas trees needed for our own state. With such a high demand for trees every year, current research efforts are under way to introduce new Christmas tree species for the Southeast.”

For the past several holiday seasons, Leyland cypress, Virginia pine, Arizona cypress and Eastern red cedar are the four top conifers grown in Georgia, while the Fraser fir is one of the most preferred imported cut Christmas trees, Pugliese said.

To help extend the life of a cut tree, Pugliese provided the following tips:

“• Measure the area that you need it to go before you go buy the tree. The tree could end up taking up half of your living room if you don’t.

• Pick the right kind of tree. Red cedars, for example, dry out very quickly if not watered properly. You also should inspect the tree for any hidden critters such as squirrels — remember Chevy Chase?

• Cut a half-inch off the tree’s base when you get it home. This unseals the sap residue on the trunk and allows the tree to take up water.

• Water the tree within 20 minutes of making the cut at home. Secure your tree in its base first. A tree will consume a gallon of water the first two days, and as much as two pints per day after that. Make sure the end of the trunk stays at least 1 inch below water level at all times.

• Re-cut the base another half-inch if the water dries out. Don’t do this on a daily basis or by Christmas your tree will be much shorter. You might decide it’s easier to not let the tree dry out in the first place!

• Preserve the tree by keeping the tree out of direct sunlight and away from direct contact with heat registers. Adding store bought preservatives to the water might help keep the tree healthy by curbing bacterial growth.”

For more information on selecting and maintaining Christmas trees, contact Pugliese at 770-387-5142. More details on Noel Forest Christmas Tree Farm and Young Road Christmas Tree Farm can be obtained by calling 770-956-9787 or 770-382-9780, respectively.