ASHE COUNTY — As Thanksgiving approaches and yuletide joy increases, people from near and far have begun flocking to Ashe County to choose and cut their Frasier fir for the season.
All over the leading Christmas tree producing county in the United States, growers have opened the steep slopes of their Frasier fir farms for the public to peruse in search of one to lug home and adorn with ornaments.
“We really enjoy the business, people are really happy at this time of the year,” said third-generation Christmas tree farmer Jim Barlow of Ivy Point Farm. “We saw little kids that were knee-high running through the fields, and now they’re grown and bringing their own kids up.”
Barlow said his family has been growing Christmas trees for longer than 100 years, and the choose-and-cut business shows the more personable side of the industry compared to commercial farming.
“We’ve done commercial as well, and it’s rewarding, but when you do it commercial you just have folks come in, and 25 or 30 guys chop them down, run them through the baler and they’re gone,” Barlow said. “Here, you get to talk with the people, and we’ve got Russian tea and hot chocolate and water and juice boxes for them — we really enjoy this, it’s a lot of fun.”
Kathy Barlow agreed with her husband’s sentiments, adding that there is a strong sense of community among Ashe’s Frasier fir growers.
“The wonderful thing is it’s not competitive, it’s really friendly. If we don’t have the size tree someone wants, we send them wherever, and others send people to us — it’s not like you’re trying to outdo somebody,” Kathy Barlow said. “You build your own clientele and then they come back, so it’s just a friendly atmosphere.”
The Barlows said they are friends with neighboring Christmas tree farmers.
“It is a big community, folks that grow Christmas trees tend to know each other,” Jim Barlow said, “They’re good people, and they’re trying to do good by the environment as well.”
Barlow said Frasier firs take up carbon dioxide and breathe off oxygen.
“What better thing to do than plant your ground with trees and help the environment?” Barlow said.
“People are real skeptical about the pesticides and whatever, but there’s been a lot of improvement and a lot more organic treatments,” Kathy Barlow said. “We’re very careful about that, every tree grower is out here.”
“It’s a community effort,” Jim Barlow said. “We’re happy and proud to be in the business, and we love doing it — and it smells good.”