Mississippi Christmas Trees At Michael May’s Lazy Acres Plantation, the Christmas season begins before the Thanksgiving leftovers are put away. The 120-acre farm near Chunky, Miss. opens Thanksgiving Day through Dec. 20, letting families stroll through the fields to find the perfect Christmas tree. Once visitors pick their pine, they’ll enjoy a tractor-drawn sleigh ride, to haul the tree to the loading area. Afterward, they can take a rest inside at the farm’s Santa’s Workshop, where kids show off their creativity and make their own ornaments, while parents snack on roasted cinnamon pecans and enjoy an indoor light show featuring over 5,000 bulbs synchronized to music. May and his wife Cathy took over the farm from his parents in 2000, after more than 30 years in operation, in hopes of continuing the traditional Christmas tree outing. “It’s great seeing the smiling kids at the farm and talking to parents who are bringing them, telling their own stories of coming here as a kid,” says May, who sells between 1,200 and 1,500 trees annually. “You’re creating memories that carry on across generations. It’s important the tradition continues.” With a little luck and a promising uptick in tree sales statewide, that tradition is seeing its best run in decades in Mississippi. Mississippi Christmas Trees In recent years, Christmas tree sales by the state’s growers increased, with 29,000 trees sold in 2013, up from 27,000 in 2011. It’s a slight bump, but a significant one considering Christmas tree sales across the state had fallen since the 1980s, when pre-cut tree sales were decimating traditional cut-your-own offerings. Dr. Stephen Dicke, extension professor of forestry at Mississippi State University, says the increase is good news for the industry. Mississippi growers produce a number of high-quality trees, including the Leyland cypress (excellent for needle retention and low scent for people with allergies), Carolina Sapphire (a minty smell), Virginia Pine (more aromatic) and Eastern Red Cedar (hardy with a greenish blue color). At age 31, Southern Christmas Tree Association (SCTA) President Robert Foster, is one of only a handful of young growers in the organization, though they’re working on recruiting more. In fact, the SCTA gained eight new members this year. In the meantime, growers are busy enhancing the Christmas tree trek experience. Foster’s Cedar Hill Farm in Hernando also sells wreaths, fudge and hot chocolate, pictures, breakfast, and even a catfish dinner with Santa. And it’s paying off. Growers note that tree-hunters will drive up to 100 miles to visit Christmas tree farms. “We are in the business of selling a memory and not just a Christmas tree,” Foster says. “It is important to make memories with your kids, and that’s really what it’s all about.”

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