When I visited nearly every choose-and-cut tree farm in the NC mountains two years ago, I headed out on the first Saturday in December. Much to my delight, every other car had a Christmas tree strapped to its roof. That sight never ceases to bring a smile to my face.
Fraser firs grow only in higher elevations, so outside of the mountains you’ll find mostly cedars and pines. (As I confessed early, I fancy the Eastern red cedar.)
Ashe County (Jefferson, West Jefferson) contains the most tree farms, but the largest number of choose-and-cut operations are in Watauga County (Boone). Alleghany County (Sparta) is close behind. The Charlotte area has a few C&C trees farms, as do the Triangle and the Coast.
I’m listing a few farms here, but my book, out in March, contains many more. Great online information, including choose-and-cut directories, can be found at the websites of these groups: NC Christmas Tree Association, Eastern NC Christmas Tree Growers’ Association, Watauga County Christmas Tree Association, Alleghany Christmas Tree Association, Ashe County Christmas Tree Association.
Here’s my list:
It’s hard to beat the view from Joe Edwards Christmas Tree Farm in Sparta — the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 50-acre farm also features a gift shop filled with Joe’s artwork.
If you have children, Sugar Plum Farms in Avery County (between Boone and Burnsville) is about as festive and kid-friendly as you can get. Kids can greet Santa, see ducks float (or skate) on the pond, take a hayride through the trees, and roast marshmallows.
Another great place for a view is Wayland’s Nursery outside of West Jefferson. The drive up the twisting mountain road to the top is equally memorable. In the summer, they offer U-pick blueberries. Co-owner Lynn Cox has a gift shop of her Christmas- and blueberry-themed art.
Swinging Bridge Farm outside of Boone is small and often runs out of trees early. But even without trees, it’s worth a visit to see the swinging bridge made by owner Chuck Lieberman, the county’s self-proclaimed “only Jewish Christmas tree farmer.” Ask Chuck to show you his orangery, filled with citrus trees.
What Fir! is one of the Boone area’s highest farms, at 4,000 feet, which means it also has a great view, a crazy drive up, and lots of Fraser firs. Owners Nathaniel and Kirby Maram in 2005 won a statewide award for their sustainable farming practices. Not only do they have a lovely 40-acre pond-filled spread, they bring in miniature donkeys and alpacas on the weekend, much to Rudolph’s bemusement.
Near Charlotte, Helms Christmas Tree Farm grows red cedar, white pine, Leyland cypress, and spruce. Unlike most choose-and-cut farms, Helms will sell trees “bagged and balled” so they can be replanted. Customers tour the fields on a covered wagon. In the summer, there’s U-pick blueberries, which show up in jam jars this time of year.
In the Triangle, Jordan Lake Christmas Tree Farm grows 12 acres of native species, but most customers “go right for the Frasers,” which are shipped in from the mountains, says co-owner Diana May. She and her helpers make wreaths, operate a gift shop, and offer hayrides.
On the coast, check out Moore Christmas Tree Farm on the outskirts of New Bern, which grows pines, cedar, Leyland cypress and Carolina sapphire. And, yes, it sells Frasers from the mountains. Owner Ricky Jones and family make wreaths and garland, too, “but the big thing we’re selling is the adventure.”
These are just a small sampling of what’s out there. Feel free to ask me about any specific farms, and I’d love to hear about your favorite choose-and-cut Christmas tree traditions!