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The Daily Tar Heel

Local Tree Farmers Provide A Fresher Alternative

His half-acre lot is located on Main Street in Carrboro across from Weaver Street Market.

Williams says the market for Christmas trees has risen this year due to the Sept. 11 tragedy.

"Everybody refers to 9/11," Williams said. "And it has made a difference in the Christmas tree business."

In the wake of the disaster, Williams said people want to spend the holidays at home with their families.

"They see what can happen any day," he said.

Williams estimated that 200,000 more fresh-cut trees will be sold in the United States this year although most of his business comes from the Chapel Hill and Carrboro area.

"I would say I have 250 to 300 loyal customers," Williams said.

Williams' Christmas trees come from Newland, about 12 miles from Grandfather Mountain. There was a fresh load in a truck in front of the lot Thursday.

Williams emphasized that freshness is very important and that he does not start cutting as early as other Christmas tree vendors.

"Most of the (other) trees have been cut 10 to 15 days before Halloween," Williams said. "A person should be careful when choosing a tree.

"Once the sap comes out of a tree, it's dry and very dangerous," Williams said.

Williams also says he takes very good care of his trees.

"I'm the only one who puts the live trees in the ground," Williams said. "I care for them."

Williams doesn't just sell fresh-cut Christmas trees. He offers a variety of products, ranging from fresh mistletoe, fresh-cut Fraser firs and different varieties of wreaths.

Williams also had trees called Weeping Blue Atlas Cedars that have winding trunks.

He referred to another tree as a "Charlie Brown tree."

"Somebody always wants the ugliest tree I've got," Williams said.

Williams says that Chapel Hill and Carrboro customers usually buy 6- to 8-foot fresh-cut trees, although he sells trees that range from 2 feet to 12 feet.

But Williams is not the only Christmas tree provider in the area. The Cranberry Tree Farm has a lot on Raleigh Road in front of the University Inn.

Jim Lowry has managed the lot for 10 years, and his son, Benton, has been working there since he was 12. Now a student at East Carolina University, Benton Lowry was running the lot Thursday during reading days before exams.

He also agreed that the tree market is increasing but cited rising population as the cause.

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"As people continue to move into the area, it just means more people who need Christmas trees," Benton said. "We do our best to meet that demand."

The Cranberry Tree Farm has about 100 trees on the lot at any given time. The trees come from Alleghany County, near Laurel Springs and Sparta.

The lot keeps some of its trees under a tent to block the sun. Workers also keep their trees on the ground rather than pavement which conserves water.

"Our trees stay in good condition; they stay pretty healthy," Benton said.

The Cranberry Tree Farm sells Fraser firs, White pines and bags and preservatives to add to water. They also sell wreaths sized from 9 inches to 48 inches.

Benton says that most customers come from the Chapel Hill area but also from Carrboro, Hillsborough and Durham. People staying at the inn also bring business, including one couple from South Carolina that buy a tree every year.

"We have a very loyal customer base," Benton said. "Almost all the people that buy from us buy year after year."

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