christmas_tree_web.jpgChattanooga Times Free Press

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Terry Ramey, owner of Linda's Produce in East Ridge, said the bad economy actually may help sales of the Christmas trees on his lot.

“I bought 200 extra trees this year,” Ramey said. “People are going to have their Christmas tree, maybe just to get their mind off the bad economy.”

Thanksgiving is traditionally when families begin searching for the ideal Christmas tree to grace their homes, and sales this year are expected to be relatively stable despite an unstable economy.

The economy, gas prices and even a lingering drought can't discourage people who grow and buy real Christmas trees, said Art Landrigan, president of the Tennessee Christmas Tree Growers Association.

Alice Bickford, who with her husband, Andy, has operated Little Mountain Tree Farm in Pikeville, Tenn., since 1972, said the days when a mile-long line of cars waited to load up trees are long gone, but people still enjoy the relaxing experience of going to a farm to pick the perfect tree.

“We enjoy seeing people run around looking at trees and the kids running around playing,” she said.

The fresh smell of pine also is a major attraction, Ramey said.

“When you walk in through the front door you can smell it all through the house,” he said.

Trees this year are especially high in quality because farmers worked extra hard to stem the impact of two years of drought, said Landrigan, who owns ARCY Acres Christmas Tree Farm and Nursery in Crossville, Tenn.

“Christmas tree growing has been difficult but successful this year throughout the state,” he said.

Similar sentiments have been expressed by tree farmers in North Georgia.

“We usually trim the trees three or four times during the summer, but last year's drought reduced their output so I only had to trim once,” said Jonathan Bosshardt, 16, who, along with his five brothers and sisters has operated the Come See Come Saw Christmas Tree Farm in Chickamauga for more than a dozen years.

Timely rains and less-extreme heat this summer have allowed nearly 250 trees to look their best this year, Bosshardt said. And, if the number of phone calls is any indication, this will be a big year for sales, he said.

“People from the city look for the perfect taper that comes to a sharp point. College students and people from rural areas like the ‘wild-looking’ trees,” he said as he pruned Leyland cypress with a shearing knife, a two-handed blade that looks more like a martial arts weapon than a gardener's tool.