Just 90 minutes west of Winston-Salem, Mistletoe Meadows Christmas Tree Farm in Ashe County offers the holiday magic of choose-and-cut trees, complemented with hay rides and hot cider and cocoa for families who want to make an outing of selecting the perfect Christmas tree.
“It’s just all about that family tradition,” says Joe Freeman, who founded the tree farm in 1988.
Customers of Mistletoe Meadows will be in good company: Mistletoe Meadows has been a vendor for the White House for the past 10 years. In 2007, it was selected as the National Grand Champion Grower—the highest honor in the Christmas tree industry. The winner provides the White House with a tree that is at least 18.5 feet tall, chosen by a team from the White House. “We had the privilege of placing the Blue Room tree (the official White House Christmas tree) in 2007,” Freeman says. “I still can’t believe it sometimes.”
The White House is part of the National Park System, and park employees set up and decorate the tree. Freeman and his wife attended the White House presentation of the tree to First Lady Laura Bush.
Although he had visited as a child when Jimmy Carter was president, “I never really knew how small those rooms were,” Freeman says. Because of this, the White House often needs narrower trees.
This past year, Mistletoe Meadows supplied the White House with 18 smaller trees, ranging from 12 to 16 feet, to be used in other parts of the building, including the State Dining Room.
Of course, you don’t have to be president to enjoy one of Freeman’s trees. Thanks to the farm’s choose-and-cut business, anyone can have a White House-worthy tree in their living room.
Choose-and-cut days will be held each weekend from Thanksgiving to Dec. 10. Trees at the farm range from 4 to 13 feet with most falling in the 6- to 7-foot range. The average cost is around $55, and the staff will help you cut it, bale it, and load it into/onto your vehicle if needed.
“We like to say we’re a farm-to-family operation,” Freeman notes. “Each of our trees is grown with one goal in mind—to be the tree a family chooses to be their Christmas tree.”
Freeman grew up in the Triad and attended Southeast Guilford High School. He spent many summers on his grandparents’ farm in Montgomery County, learning how to raise tobacco and helping with the family’s pigs and chickens. He was active in 4-H, and he majored in fisheries and wildlife science at N.C. State University. He has memories of helping select his family’s tree at his father’s Optimist Club’s lot, and he remembers cutting a cedar for Christmas at his grandparents’ farm.
In high school, he worked for the Wagoner Brothers, who sold Christmas trees in the Triad, and he continued the job through college. Fred Wagoner eventually asked him to work full-time, and in 1988, Freeman began leasing land in the N.C. mountains from the Wagoners to plant his own trees, eventually purchasing the land.
It takes about 12 years to grow a 7-foot-tall tree from seed, and Freeman has 300,000 trees growing at some stage of development. “It is a long-term investment, and you have to know that you have to replant every year.”
Most of the trees are Fraser firs, whichthrive in high elevations, cool temperatures and moist fog. The farm also sells white pine, blue spruce, and Leyland cypress trees—along with wreaths and garland—but it’s the Fraser firs that keep folks coming back.
“It’s amazing how long the needles will stay on a Fraser fir,” says Freeman, who has customers as far away as Canada and the Bahamas. “You have to treat them like a fresh flower.”
Freeman adds that Fraser firs, which are native to the North Carolina mountains, have been a huge boon for the economy of the Laurel Springs area as well as the surrounding environment.
“Ashe County grows the most Fraser firs of any county in the nation,” he says. “On the environmental side, we maintain ground cover; we have greatly increased the populations of rabbits, deer, turkeys. We all try to be good stewards of the land.”
WANT TO GO? Mistletoe Meadows
Where: 270 Mistletoe Meadows Parkway, Laurel Springs
Hours: Choose-and-cut is offered from 9 a.m. to dark on select weekends (Nov. 23-26, Dec. 2-3, Dec. 9-10).
Good to know: Free pony rides for kids and guided trail rides for families are available. Mistletoe Meadows also has several retail lots in parts of the Triad. Visit their website for details.
More info: 336-982-9754, mistletoemeadows.com