L-r "Shug" Charlotte and Jim Smith married 53 years. Planted first trees in 1983 and opened in 1988 for business at Sugarland. Here Jim cuts down a Virginia Pine out in their christmas tree farm. This tree is going into their gingerbread house for decoration, which Shug does every year.
Sugarland Tree Farm owner Jim Smith planted his first Christmas tree in 1983 and began selling them in 1988. He's watched generations of families walk the paths through his farm, searching for just the right tree. Though he's getting older and realizes that he won't be able to run the farm himself for too much longer, he's thankful for the time he's had.
"We're pretty used to the work. If we didn't enjoy it, we wouldn't be doing it. It's been a good family thing through the years," said Smith, who runs the Stockbridge farm with his wife Charlotte "Sug" (pronounced "Shug") Smith, after whom the farm is named.
Like other Christmas tree growers throughout the state, Smith is ready for the crowds to descend upon his cut-your-own tree farm.
The Sugarland Farm opens Nov. 25, while nearby Yuletide Farm is ready for business on Thanksgiving Day and Berry's Tree Farm opens today.
Smith said his farm's draw is having Santa available to greet families every weekend.
"We play on our Santa Claus, that's kind of our theme, that and the Sugar Shack gift house," said Smith.
The Sugar Shack is small, festive cabin painted green, with red trim and decorated with lights for the holidays. Inside, visitors will find lots of gift items from Santas and angels to tree ornaments and handmade wreaths.
While all the Christmas tree farms provide visitors with a saw for felling the trees, Sugarland also gives visitors a cart for hauling the tree to the car.
Sugarland has about 1,000 trees available including leyland cypress, Virginia pine and red cedar. Pre-cut Fraser firs from North Carolina are also for sale.
"We just offer family fun. (Visitors) just come and run around the field. They can do what they want, bring their pets if they want," said Smith. "We've had people out here in taxi cabs (from Midtown). We get them from all over."
In Newton County, Berry's Tree Farm is stocked with cut-your-own leyland cypress, Virginia pine, cedar and Carolina sapphire, as well as pre-cut Fraser firs. Santa visits the two weekends following Thanksgiving and an antique car and tractor show is set for Dec. 4.
Berry's also offers train rides for kids, a gift house and concessions, along with snow flocking (covering the tree with an artificial white snow).
Yule Forest Christmas tree farm owner Allen Grant said his farm's attractions, in addition to the roughly 3,000 trees available on the Stockbridge property, include a hayride and petting zoo. They also pipe Christmas music into the fields and offer free hot cider.
Grant said his cut-your-own Christmas trees will last a lot longer than a pre-cut tree at a department store.
As far as choosing a fresh tree versus an artificial one, Grant said the fresh one is your best bet.
Fresh trees are better for the environment, he said, because for every fresh tree cut, five are planted. On the other hand, artificial trees use non-recyclable materials that eventually end up in a landfill.
Artificial trees are also made overseas, he said, but fresh trees put money into the local economy.
"If you just go to a tree farm and get a reasonable, average, run of the mill tree, you save money and get a fresh tree and you're being ecologically sound," he said.
Yule Tide offers Virginia pines, leyland cypress and Fraser firs. The farm also offers snow flocking, tree delivery (for those who cannot transport their trees) and tree stands that hold 1 -1/2 gallons of water.
"We make it so easy," said Grant.
Local tree farms
Sugarland Tree Farm
3933 Highway 155
Yule Forest Christmas Tree Farm3565 Highway 155
Berry's Tree Farm
70 Mt. Tabor Road