SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Christmas is still eight months away, but your family’s Christmas tree could be growing right here in Georgia.
WTOC spoke with a farmer in Liberty County who has been growing trees for almost 50 years.
“We really don’t sell trees. We sell a family experience out here,” Paschal Brewer said.
Paschal Brewer has been growing Christmas trees on his farm in Midway Georgia since 1972, but it started out as just a small operation.
“I put 500 out here. They were cedars. We had no idea what we could grow, but cedars did grow in the woods and we would cut them down,” Brewer said.
“This was primarily for family, and a few of my high school friends found out about it. They crawled over the fence, came in here, and they would cut a tree and leave a couple of dollars in a sack,” he said.
Those weren’t just any old Christmas trees. At one time, they were the best in Georgia.
“We used to enter Christmas trees in the Georgia National Fair. We had the grand champion for the state four times I believe,” Brewer said.
Once word got out that people could buy Georgia-grown Christmas Trees, his farm grew into a destination for customers not only across Georgia, but also in South Carolina. He has even sold trees to people from as far away as Miami, FL.
The Christmas tree industry in Georgia is not what it used to be. At one time, Georgia had about 400 Christmas tree producers, but now it is under 100. Even Mr. Brewer is beginning to downsize his operation.
“We started with 20 acres and we are down to about two acres or less now. We have, maybe about 1,500 trees out there now. We sell 1,000 or so per year,” Brewer said.
That doesn’t stop him from looking back at fond memories he has created over the last 47 years.
“We had up to 3,500 school kids coming out here every year, taking a tour, cutting a tree down and seeing how they were grown," he said.
Since visitors can only cut their own Christmas trees for about a month out of the year, the Brewers planted plenty of fruit to keep people coming back all year long.
“People love to come out here and pick blueberries, and that’s June and July. Whenever they’re gone, they come out here and they get muscadine grapes in August and early September. In October, there’s oriental persimmons that we have out here to pick,” Brewer said.
Growing fruit will keep Brewer busy this summer as his trees continue to grow and wait to be featured as a centerpiece in someone’s living room later this year.