Operators of the area’s two Christmas tree farms say a large selection awaits East Texans seeking the perfect holiday focal point for their homes.
Danville Farms in Kilgore and Merket Christmas Tree Farm in Beckville, which both offer an experience beyond trees, opened to customers this past week.
Kathy Adams, daughter of Danville Farms founders James and Mary Robinson, was working at the farm’s shop Friday and said trees and other items were being sold at “a good, brisk pace” by 9:30 a.m., noting the parking lot was already mostly full.
“(The day after Thanksgiving) is typically a big day,” she said.
Mary Robinson, who was sitting nearby making wreaths for customers, said shoppers at Danville Farms have a better chance this year of picking up a Virginia pine or Fraser fir.
“A lady called this morning and said ‘Now, I’m assuming, since yesterday was Thanksgiving, you still have some trees left?’ Because last year, we sold out really fast,” Robinson said.
Adams agreed, noting the farm has about 300 more trees for sale compared with last year.
“Maybe we’ll sell out in six days instead of five this year!” she said with a laugh.
In addition to trees, customers also can find accessories, including handmade wreaths, floor protectors, Christmas ornaments, T-shirts, food to extend the life of the tree and even watering funnels to keep a tree hydrated without bending over.
“We try to have everything available that you need for your tree,” Adams said. “We try to educate people if they’ve never bought a real tree before. We walk them through the things that they need. Trees that aren’t the prettiest get turned into wreaths. We try to use as much of it as we can.”
Adams said Danville Farms, at 2000 Danville Road, is a family operation, with her parents growing the trees and her in-laws running the Snack Shack, where customers can pick up a warm drink or a snack.
“Some people want to come and spend several hours. You know, a lot of people come from bigger cities and they just love the farm experience,” she said. “They’ll make a day of it, drive over and they can even have a hot dog for lunch. We’ve got a little playground. People take their Christmas card pictures out here. It’s a fun family experience.”
Danville Farms was established in 1982 and began selling trees in 1986, Adams said.
“I guess I was maybe 15 the first year that we opened the farm. I have a 16-year-old now. So, over the years, we’re now on the third generation of helping out here,” she said. “We just love that our kids are learning a work ethic and the value of a dollar and customer service.
“This is Christmas to us.”
Merket Christmas Tree Farm, off FM 1794 in Beckville, is in its 30th year of selling trees.
“We started the farm in 1985 and began selling trees four years later in 1989,” farm owner Jackie Merket said Wednesday.
“We have fantastic trees this year. We have about 350 Fraser firs shipped in from North Carolina because they won’t grow here in Texas, and we have Virginia pine and Leyland cypress that we grow here on the farm,” Merket said. “The Frasers brought in this year are fantastic.”
The trees come in sizes from about 3 feet to up to 14 feet tall and above. One tree at the farm set to be purchased by a local university is more than 25 feet tall, Merket said.
The trees start at $30 and increase in price depending on size and type.
“The Fraser firs are little bit more expensive because they have to be shipped in,” he said. “I also do the flocking on site, or we have a selection of trees already flocked for purchase.”
Customers can decide if they want to cut down their own tree or pick one out and have the farm’s crew cut it down.
Tree stands are available on site, along with fertilizer that is supposed to extend the life of the tree, although Merket said sometimes just keeping the tree stand full with plenty of water is just as good for the tree.
“Every time you hear about fires at Christmas time, it’s always the real trees that you get warned about, but the plastic, artificial trees actually burn faster,” he said. “Also, real Christmas tree farms are a renewable energy source because for every tree we cut and sell, we go and plant three or four more in its place.”
While customers wait for their trees to be shaken, cut and compressed, they can visit the Merket Farm’s store on site or visit Santa Claus for a photo and candy cane.
Merket said Santa will be on site every Saturday while the farm is open.
Inside the store, customers can buy gifts for friends or family members or take a treat home for themselves in Merket’s own handmade jellies, candies and snacks.
Merket also grows peaches, mayhaws, muscadines and more.
“Everything but the blueberries are grown here,” he said. “We have plum and blackberry jelly, too. We try to keep a variety. We also have jars of fresh honey and snack cakes. The mayhaw cake is my own recipe.”
Proceeds from the sales benefit the Panola County Cancer Coalition.
And while parents shop, children can visit the baby goats at the petting zoo.