PONTOTOC • Two years ago, Ali and Adam Carnes planted some 250 Christmas trees in anticipation for this holiday season.

The trees – all Leyland Cypress – have been growing at Carnes Farms at 164 Hurt Wood Road and will be going up in homes and businesses across Northeast Mississippi. 

"Ready or not, here we go," Ali Carnes said last week, prior to Saturday's official opening. "We've done all we can do."

Years of watering, fertilizing, trimming and caring for the trees has led to this moment.

"There's a little bit of nervousness and anxiety," Adam Carnes said.

In 2019, the Carneses bought some pre-cut Fraser fir trees to sell at the farm to help spread the word. Last year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, they were able to sell all 85 trees they had, even though they got mild cases of the virus themselves.

"Dec. 1, we had three trees left," Ali Carnes said. "Everybody would message us, and we told them we had these sized left but we told them we had COVID and we wouldn't be out there."

But customers wanted the trees, and Adam Carnes mustered the energy to get the trees to the customers.

"It was a blessing really," Adam Carnes said. "It makes you feel better that we were able to sell 85 trees last year with COVID, and we're trying to sell 250 this year." 

While customers began picking and cutting their trees on Saturday, the Carneses said the farm will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except on Wednesdays until the trees are gone. As an exception for this week only, the farm will open Wednesday but will be closed on Thanksgiving. Sunday hours will be 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Having trees ready for sale takes some long-range planning. Since the initial planting in the spring of 2019, the Carneses have stuck to a strict schedule to ensure there are plenty of trees for the next several years.

"The next field we planted after this first one we had 265 trees, then 285, and we ordered 300 for our next planting," Adam Carnes said.

Unlike some Christmas tree farms, there is no pre-tagging. Customers at Carnes Farms pick a tree, cut it and take it home with them. The trees sell for $12 a foot. The Carneses had initially thought $10 a foot would work, but that was two years ago, and expenses have grown since then. Among the biggest cost is the chemicals used to treat the trees.

"What we paid in January has now doubled," Ali Carnes said.

John Kushla, professor and forestry specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said tree growers across the state suffered crop losses from storms this year, in addition to having expenses rise for equipment, parts, fuel and fertilizer.

“But that does not mean all growers are charging more for a tree. Since the Christmas tree market is local, growers near a larger city may be able to charge more for trees, while those in rural areas may not,” he said.

Kushla said choose-and-cut trees are selling statewide for $9 to $14 per foot, which is in line with 2020 prices. 

Even at $12 a tree, the Carneses could easily charge more to help cover their higher expenses, but decided not to, because they know everybody is affected by higher inflation that's raising prices on just about everything.

"We're trying to give everybody the best bang for their buck," Adam Carnes said.

Recommended for you

Load comments