RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Many people across the state will soon be picking out a Christmas tree, if they haven’t already, and there will be plenty of North Carolina-grown trees to choose from.
North Carolina is the second-largest producer of Christmas trees in the nation behind Oregon.
Brad Barick knows all about the Christmas tree business. He learned the fun family business from his dad, Frank, who is now almost 97 years old.
Barick said learning the trade takes time.
“I’m a slow learner, but I’ve learned it,” he said.
At 96 years old, Frank Barick said the work isn’t quite as fun as it used to be.
“Now that I’ve gotten so darn old, it’s [less like fun and] more like work.”
Back-breaking work is exactly how “Back Achers Christmas Tree Farm” in Raleigh got its name. They started selling their first trees back in 1983.
These days they grow six different species, mostly Virginia pines, and this season they’ve imported 230 cut Fraser Firs from Alleghany County.
“[Fraser’s are] very perfectly-shaped. It’s easy to decorate because the limbs are sturdy,” Barick said.
They had to haul in the Fraser Firs because they don’t grow around here as they’re native to the Appalachian Mountains and the cooler climate and soil type found there. The trees are also susceptible to root disease and the mountains provide drainage.
According to the USDA’s most recent numbers, in 2012 the state produced more than four million cut trees. Only 600 of those came from Wake County.
Since around 98 percent of all trees produced in North Carolina come from just seven Western counties, nearly two million trees are cut in Ashe County alone.
There are 1,370 growers in North Carolina and that’s a number that has dipped in the past decade. The dip is due to consolidation, according to the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association. Despite that, the same number of trees is still being grown, keeping the tradition alive.
“Oh, the tradition is awesome and that’s what people keep coming back for is the tradition – the fresh air, the fresh trees, walking around the fields, seeing what’s new. It’s just become a fun, family tradition. People bring their kids out. They’ll bring their dogs out and just have a great time,” Barick said.
Scenet, shape and size are all factors when it comes to picking out a tree.
“Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder,” said Barick.
Although it’s up to each individual to choose what tree they want, Barick said he does try to steer families with kids away from cedars and towards Carolina Sapphires.
“The tree’s a beautiful tree, but it does have the little thorns on them,” he said. “[The sapphire] does not have any thorns on it. It looks a lot like the cedar, but there are no thorns. It has a great aroma to it.”
Barick said his personal favorite is still the Fraser, which takes 10 to 12 years to grow from the seed to your living room. Other trees only take about five years.
The N.C. Christmas Tree Association advocates for people to use real trees over artificial ones at Christmas, saying they’re more environmentally-friendly because they’re renewable, recyclable and release oxygen.
Trees will stay green for two or three months, Barick said. In order to make sure they do, there are a few things to remember – keep at least one gallon of water in your base and keep it away from direct heat, to prevent fire.