December 16th , 2013 9:27 am Leave a comment

Industry stays tree-top tall

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Photo by Brandon Hicks

Photo by Brandon Hicks
Wade Johnson, Ronnie Vicars and James Shelton load one of two Fraser firs purchased from the Valley of the Roan Tree Farm in Roan Mountain, preparing them for the two-hour trip to Hiltons, Va.

Judy and Ronnie Vicars drove to Roan Mountain from Hiltons, Va., with their friend James Shelton on Friday to get a Christmas tree specifically from Wade Johnson, who has a small choose-and-cut tree farm on the land behind his house.

“It always feels good to have somebody take one of your trees and have it as their Christmas tree for their family,” said Johnson, who owns the Valley of the Roan Tree Farm. “That’s what it is all about.”

Judy said it was her fifth year buying a tree to decorate for the holiday from Johnson.

“We were just driving around one year when we found him,” Judy said.

“The reason we come out here is because we are supporting a guy who is doing what he loves,” Ronnie said.

With about 7,000 trees on his land located along Sugar Hollow Road inside Roan Mountain State Park, Johnson said business has been great so far this year.

“It’s been a little better than last year,” Johnson said. “I’ve been growing Christmas trees since 1971. I do this as a hobby.”

Most of the Christmas tree industry in the area is based on Fraser firs like the ones Judy and Shelton chose, said Carter County UT Extension Director Keith Hart.

In fact, it was in Roan Mountain where the first commercial cutting of Fraser fir trees took place, according to “Fraser Fir as a Christmas Tree” by W.K. Williams.

“The Forest Service helped create the Christmas tree industry that is here now,” Hart said.

And the Christmas tree industry continues to have hardy roots here: Hart said there are 30 to 40 tree farms in Carter County.

While Fraser firs continue to be a Christmas-time staple in most homes, the director said there are a few other tree species that have come into the market since the industry began.

“Most of the trees used for Christmas trees around here are the Fraser, white pine and concolor,” Hart said. “There are others like the Norway spruce.”

“There are so many different ones,” he said. “Some of them are smaller family farms and others are much larger.”

To see the rest of this story, log on to the Elizabethton Star’s e-edition or pick up a copy of our award-winning print edition, available through subscriptions, in boxes and at vendors throughout Carter and Johnson counties. The e-edition is free to subscribers. Others may pay a daily, weekly or monthly fee to access the e-edition.

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