fraser firNorth Carolina farmers help spread the holiday cheer, with over 20 percent of the nation’s Christmas trees produced in the state. The vast majority of the trees are Fraser firs, which make up more than 98 percent of tree species grown in North Carolina. More than 1,350 Christmas tree growers are in North Carolina producing on 40,000 acres. One such local farm is the family-run Frosty Mountain Christmas Trees, located high in the Appalachian Mountains in the west, tending to 80,000 Fraser firs grown over 55 acres on its 300-acre farm.

“It’s such a special experience to grow Fraser firs,” says Donna Jones, who owns Frosty Mountain with her husband, Chipper. “They are native to North Carolina.”

Frosty Mountain grows and harvests trees, as do other operations, instead of cutting native, wild- growing firs. Jones notes the trees are a crop the same as anything else, and this crop is typically replenished when harvested.

“Tree farms usually replant at least one tree for every one that is cut,” she says.

According to Jennifer Greene, executive director of the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association, the state’s Christmas tree industry really started booming in the mid 1980s. Since then, North Carolina has risen from ranking as the ninth most Christmas tree- producing state in the nation to No. 2 today. The highest producing counties are Ashe, Avery, Alleghany, Watauga and Jackson.

“We have Christmas tree growers throughout the state, but Fraser fir is produced in western mountain counties. The tree can only survive in elevations of 3,200 feet and above. That makes it very unique to the western North Carolina mountains.”

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Growing and caring for Christmas trees is a year-round endeavor and takes place over many years – it takes around 12 years for a tree to grow retail height of 6 to 7 feet. Frosty Mountain purchases young trees about four to five years old, which are then planted into the field. As they grow, firs are inspected for pests and disease, as well as fertilized, while vegetation around the tree is inspected and maintained.

“Every tree is visited,” Jones says.

Families travel from near and far to Frosty Mountain so they can select their very own trees for the holiday season. The fir trees are typically ready to be harvested after a first freeze, which causes trees to go dormant and needles to “set.” However, because the farm is a smaller operation, Frosty Mountain tries to accommodate customers with special requests.

For example, they were once visited by a family whose enlisted relative was getting deployed during the holidays, and they wanted to celebrate Christmas early. Another had a family member with a terminal illness. “Of course we’re going to help them,” Jones says. “That’s one of the good things about being a smaller farm and family-operated: You can reach out to us anytime.”