Buying a tree from one of Mississippi’s Christmas tree farms helps support the local economy while offering families a chance to make some memories this holiday season.
The big question for many families this time of year is whether to get a live tree or pull out the tired old artificial tree for another year. There are pros and cons for each, but the pro side tends to win over a lot of families. Nothing can compare to the intoxicating aroma of fresh cut pine.
Then there’s the process of selecting the perfect tree – something that has become a family tradition. Local Christmas tree farms have made it an event of sorts, offering much more than cutting a tree. Hayrides, photos with Santa, gift shops and more help make getting a tree a wonderful outing. And knowing you have the freshest tree possible is a great feeling. Instead of buying a tree that has been trucked across the country, a tree you cut yourself will last longer and look fresher well into the holiday season.
Mississippi has many Christmas tree farms. According to the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce website, there are 32 Genuine Mississippi Grown Christmas tree farms around the state. From the popular Leyland cypress to the Eastern red cedar, Christmas tree farmers grow thousands of trees and in late fall many of them open up their farms to provide a festive atmosphere to create fond memories and start family traditions. To find a farm near you, visit the Department of Agriculture’s dedicated Christmas tree website – MSChristmasTrees.com.
Buying a tree from one of Mississippi’s Christmas tree farms helps to support the local economy and help the environment, as the trees are biodegradable. Live trees absorb carbon dioxide and other dangerous toxins in the air. While they are growing, they protect water resources, prevent erosion, and provide habitat for wildlife.
Some retail lots sell Mississippi-grown trees, but many people find it more fun to visit the tree farms. Many of the tree farms in Mississippi have added attractions to make the trip an adventure. The Merry Christmas Tree Farm in Nesbitt was started in 1990 when Mullins and Norma Doles planted trees on forty acres. The farm has expanded and now features the Candy Cane Lane gift shop, managed by Sharon Hawkins and her daughter, Amanda Sanders. Sharon even wrote a children’s book, The Merry Christmas Tree Farm, which is available in the gift shop, on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.
Howard and Mamie Thomley began growing Christmas trees in 1967 at their farm in Oak Grove outside of Hattiesburg. Their son, Jeremy Thomley, now runs the farm. He is also a glass blower and has many of his wonderful pieces for sale at the farm. He renovated the old farmhouse in 2021 and it is now offered on Airbnb, so visitors can spend the night.
“There is nothing like early mornings on the farm,” Jeremy says.
Before heading out to get your tree, there are a few things you should do to ensure a successful trip. First, measure the space in your home where the tree will be displayed. You’ll need to know both the height and the width. Most tree farms trim their trees to an 80% taper, meaning a 10’ tall tree will be 8’ wide on the bottom.
Think about the kind of decorations you’ll be using. Are they big and heavy? Or are they small and delicate? Do you want your tree to have open branches or full, tight branches? Do you want stiff branches? Do you prefer long or short needles? If you know what kind of tree you want, you can do some research to find out what farms grow that species. A good place to start is the National Christmas Tree Association’s website – realchristmastrees.org.
Be prepared for a day in the country when you head out to the farm. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Find out if you will be doing the cutting and loading of the tree, and if so, be prepared with gloves and ask ahead of time if you will need to bring your own equipment and supplies. Cutting down a tree is typically a two-person job. Some farms offer a cutting service for you.
Check the tree size, then check to see if the trunk is straight. A good farm will provide shaking or blowing services to rid the tree of the oldest needles. They will also make a final cut on the trunk and add netting to the tree to make it easier to transport.
Once you get your tree home, use a stand with an adequate water reservoir for the tree. The general rule is to provide one quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Be sure to keep trees away from major sources of heat, which include fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, and even direct sunlight. Choose lights that produce low heat such as miniature lights. And don’t overload electrical circuits.
Many municipalities offer tree pickup after the holidays. They put the trees through a shredder and use the resulting mulch on city landscaping projects during the year. Check with your city’s public works department to see if they provide this service, and if so, on what days.
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