By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
A family trip to the tree farm
Before you pile in the kids, know what you're looking for
Balsam fir Shorter needles with that fresh-from-the-forest look.

Story: You want that tree real or fake?

3-D Farm
Where: 4141 Old Cornelia Highway, Gainesville; satellite location at 3485 McEver Road, Gainesville

Contact: 770-869-3551

Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Dec. 23 at Cornelia Highway location, 10 a.m. to  5 p.m. today and Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 23 at McEver Road location

The Kinsey Family Farm
Where: 7170 Jot-em Down Road, Gainesville

Contact: 770-887-6028

Hours: Noon until dark Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. until dark Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Cooper’s Christmas Tree Farm
Where: 5577 Winder Highway, Braselton

Contact: 770-967-6175, 678-316-6102

Hours: 9:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday to Sunday through Dec. 21

So maybe your family wants to be little bit like the Griswolds from National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation.”

To begin the holiday season, you pack up the whole family to hand pick the most beautiful, perfect Christmas tree — and then cut it down yourself.

Well, if that’s your style, you’re in luck because there are a few Christmas tree farms in the area with a variety of trees to choose from — some of which may be cut down by dad and a hacksaw.

“We’ve got Fraser firs from Dillard,” said Greg Brooks, the business administrator at Three Dimensional Life and 3-D Farm. “We have the choose-and-cut here at the property, which are Leyland cypress trees and then we have white pine.”

Nadine Ham, a longtime gardener and sales associate at Syfan’s Landscape Center, said every year she buys a Fraser fir.

“I got mine Saturday ... got it in a big ’ol tub of water; that makes it really stay good,” Ham said. “I think these have the most wonderful odor; they are fragrant.”

But is there really a difference in the type of tree you buy? Mike Nixon, the director of Three Dimensional Life and 3-D Farm, says yes.

“The Canaan firs, the tips of the needles are rounded, so they are kid-friendly,” he said. “They are not pointy and sharp and the balsam firs are a little tighter with a shorter needle and they have more of that out-in-the-forest, fresh-cut-tree kind of look. Both of them smell tremendous.”

Nixon said if the cost of the tree is a factor to you, opt for the Leyland cypress.

“They are locally grown, so you are supporting the growers here in the community and ... they are less cleanup at the end of Christmas,” he said.

Another variety of tree that 3-D Farm offers is the white pine which is “known for its wispy, smoky green color,” according to Nixon.

The Christmas tree sales at 3-D directly benefit a nine-month program on the farm for young men struggling with drugs, alcohol or destructive behaviors.

At Cooper’s Christmas Tree Farm in Braselton they have Leyland cypress and Fraser firs on hand. The Leyland cypress are grown at the farm and the Frasers are trucked in from North Carolina.

“We have Frasers that we grow in North Carolina and Frasers that we buy in North Carolina,” said John Cooper, owner of the farm. “We have a field that we own the trees on (in North Carolina), and we have people that we buy from up there. We bring those Frasers in because they won’t grow here; they have to grow in the very top of the mountains. We have them cut the week we go and get them.”

Cooper’s wife, Kathy Cooper said the Fraser is the best Christmas tree by far.
“It will last the longest, it has the best smell,” she said. “It’s just genetically improved to do really well.”

She added that the Leyland cypress has a scent but is different than the Fraser.  

“A Leyland cypress has a smell to it and it’s not as strong,” Kathy said. “You just don’t smell it when you walk by the tree as much as you do a Fraser.”

To make the trip to the tree farm a full family outing, there is also a petting zoo and hot chocolate available at Cooper’s.

So for families thinking of making a trek to the Christmas tree farm, Nixon has one tip: As soon as you get the tree home, set it up and give it water. And plenty of it.

“People really think the longer they wait to go get one, the better they are doing,” he said. “But the sooner you get them in the stand the longer they actually last ... you’ve got a good six weeks of life in a stand.”