I visited Rick Minter’s farm in early October, during the last of the 90-degree weather. Even though it still felt like the sizzling summer, Rick and his family were busy prepping their trees for the coming holiday season. “Making Christmas Memories” is the slogan of Minter’s Tree Farm and the goal of owner Rick Minter for the families who come to his Inman farm to cut a fresh tree. He sold his first Christmas tree in 1987, and long-time customers continue to return year after year to make new Christmas memories.
The fragrance of a freshly cut evergreen tree evokes holiday nostalgia, a sense of excitement and anticipation. Rick remembers well the first time he was given the assignment by his mom to go out and find the perfect Christmas tree. He was only eight years old!
“My little brother and I were sent into the woods with our 20-year-old cousin to get our Christmas tree,” recalls Rick. “We must have walked over two miles until we found a perfectly-shaped cedar tree standing alone. Even though the tree must have been over 16 feet, we cut it down with our chainsaw. My brother and I could barely carry the saw, and our cousin had to drag that tree back through the woods. It felt like it took all day. Although it was the perfect shape, we had to hack it up pretty bad to get in into the house. It ended up a pretty ugly tree! I don’t remember any of the presents I received,” he said, “but I vividly remember the experience of picking out and cutting down that cedar tree.”
These days, Joanne, Rick’s wife, and the rest of the family have “fired” Rick from picking out the family tree.
“Rick always seems to pick the ugliest tree for our family,” says Joanne. Rick admits his heart goes out to the “Charlie Brown” tree that no one wants. I guess he is saving all the great-looking trees for his customers!
Selecting and cutting a fresh Christmas tree is an opportunity for the whole family to have fun and get in touch with nature.
“We are selling an experience, and this experience is a good value,” emphasizes Rick. “You can get a fresh tree here and enjoy hayrides, hot cider, candy canes, and take family photos. Get out in the country, ramble around on the farm, and enjoy a slower pace. Families who have been coming here for generations still continue the tradition. You come out, relax and watch the sandhill cranes fly overhead.”
At Minter’s, farm you will also find a Christmas Shoppe filled with jams, jellies, candy, boiled peanuts and gift baskets and vintage farm vehicles where you can pose for family photos.
Another favorite tradition for families who come to Minter’s Farm is to purchase a tree at a steep discount to be donated to military families. Local tree growers collaborate with FedEx and the Christmas Spirit Foundation to provide complimentary trees to our troops. The average cost is about $20 for a 6 to 7 foot tree. FedEx delivers the trees to area military bases the first week in December.
Leyland Cypress is the most popular tree available at local tree farms. Leylands stay fresh the longest, do not shed and are a good choice for those with allergies. Carolina Sapphire and Blue Ice Cypress are popular choices for those looking for fragrance. These need to be cut later in the season because they dry out faster. Other selections at local tree farms include Murray Cypress, Red Cedar, Virginia Pine and White Pine. For those who must have a Fraser Fir, local farms bring in fresh Frasers from North Carolina when they are available, although Rick thinks there will be a short supply of Fraser Fir this year.
Tips for Cutting and Maintaining your Tree:
- Before arriving at the tree farm, measure the dimensions of the area where you will place the tree, including width and ceiling height. A tree in the field always looks shorter than when you get it home. You don’t want to have to hack up the tree like Rick’s family did when he was eight, because it doesn’t fit the space!
- When you arrive at the farm, ask the staff what types of trees are available and how trees are priced. Some farmers sell trees by the foot while others have set prices marked on each tree.
- Ask the staff for advice on the best method of cutting. They can also assist you with the cut if needed. All the local farms provide the tools you will need to cut your own tree including a saw, measuring pole and ties to secure the tree to your car. They also have tree stands for purchase.
- Look for a tree with a straight trunk. Cut the tree close to the ground. You will need lots of trunk to place it in the tree stand. Some farms will have equipment to haul your cut tree to the checkout area or you can carry it out. Two people can easily carry a tree. It is best not to drag it to avoid damaging the limbs.
- Most farms will help you securely tie your tree to your vehicle, but you are ultimately responsible for the safety and security of the tree.
- When you get home, you will want to make a fresh cut of the trunk before you place it in the tree stand to allow the tree to freely take up water.
- Don’t place the tree near a heat source to ensure the tree does not dry out.
- Water the tree immediately and keep the tree stand filled with water at all times. Don’t add any sweeteners to the water because this will cause mold.
- At the end of the season check on sites that will mulch your tree so you can use it in the garden or add to the compost pile.
Minter’s Tree Farm opens on Thanksgiving afternoon and continues from 9 a.m. until dark through Christmas Eve.
Local Fayette County Tree Growers
283 Hills Bridge Rd., Fayetteville
Wee Three Trees
138 Arnold Rd., Fayetteville
Smith’s Choose & Cut,
230 Davis Rd., Fayetteville
Brooks Christmas Tree Farm
352 Mask Rd., Brooks