It’s after Thanksgiving, so it’s time to start with the holiday decorations: most importantly for a lot of local families, that includes choosing a Christmas tree. There are several live tree farms in the region, and we sat down with Truitt Zipperer, owner of Truitt’s Christmas Tree Farm in Guyton, to learn more about how a South Georgia tree farm gets busy this time of year.
How did you get started selling Christmas trees?
My dad is a forester and he began moonlighting throughout his career and started a Christmas tree farm in Screven County, so it’s all I’ve known since I was about seven years old. I helped my dad for over 20 years on his farm and when I needed money to pay for college, he had this land so he said why don’t we grow some trees in Effingham County?
How long have you had the business?
The location is family land that we’ve had for generations, and we are fortunate to be in a very good location. This is my 20th year selling Christmas trees, so that makes it about 25 years I’ve been growing Christmas trees because an average tree takes about five years to grow. They are a little like people, some grow faster than others, just like genetics.
Is there a specific kind of tree you sell?
We have learned from past experience. We used to grow Virginia Pine, but they took a long time to grow. So, we graduated to Leyland Cypress, and you want them to grow to be 8 ft tall, but we have now totally transitioned to Murray Cypress due to their strength and durability.
Can families cut their own Christmas tree?
I have guys that will cut the trees for you, or I have saws families can use to cut down their own tree at no extra charge. I like to hire high school kids because it teaches them good work ethic, gives them some extra money over the holidays and teaches them how to interact with customers. People like to see young kids out there working and making a few bucks. We tie people’s trees on for them because there is a large majority of people who don’t own a pickup truck. I have tied several trees to the backseats of convertibles over the years!
What is the growing season like for your trees?
We have to plant a section of trees every year for 5 years before you realize any income so it’s not a quick turnaround. Most folks don’t realize when they come here and things are perfect and there as a family and it’s the happiest time of year, and it’s romantic and they don’t realize how much work goes into it during the summer months. Fast forward 20 years—a wife and 2 boys later—and we are still in the Christmas tree business, and it’s been good to us. It teaches responsibility to our children, and work and dedication.
How many families would you say visit your tree farm every year?
Oh it would be thousands.
Are there any interesting stories to tell about any of your customers?
The reason why I open Thanksgiving day—for numerous customers and families, in particular—is for members of the military. In the Savannah area, having the military around, Thanksgiving is their time to get together. They will come out before lunch and pick a tree and put the tree up while they are cooking or they will eat and take a nap and then come and get a tree.
When is the best time to buy aChristmas tree?
I monitor when Thanksgiving falls. These trees are fairly good at longevity, and if you do as you should and take care of your Christmas tree, it will last about a month. We typically try to open around Thanksgiving which is about a month before Christmas.
How much should someone expect to pay for a tree?
It’s not based primarily on size, quality is factored in as well. They range from $20-$50 plus tax and they range from 4 to 12 ft. tall. That doesn’t mean I have 12 ft. trees two weeks before Christmas because the biggest trees go first. We sell trees until they are all sold out.
Truitt’s Christmas Tree Farm is at 1308 Hodgeville Rd. in Guyton. Visit truittschristmastreefarm.com Please note that only cash and checks are accepted on site. They are open Sat. and Sun. only through Christmas, (9 a.m. ‘until dark’)