Ah, savor the aroma of a freshly cut Fraser fir and the happy anticipation of the holidays. Excitement is in the air, and visions of sugar plums surely are dancing in the heads of children.
Western North Carolina, with its high elevation, is prime territory for growing the popular Fraser fir, named for John Fraser, a Scottish botanist who explored the Appalachian Mountains.
Add the excitement of a family outing to find the perfect tree, and it leads many people to visit choose-and-cut tree farms in the mountains.
One of the busiest and most well-known tree farms is Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm located on a mountainside in Waynesville. The farm, located about 35 miles west of Asheville, offers a happy experience for all ages.
“I love tree season,” said family owner Betsy Boyd. “People who come here are so happy.”
It’s a picturesque setting where family memories are made, and an easy drive from Asheville on I-40.
“People who come here are not just looking for a tree, they want a family day and a memory day,” said Darren Nicholson of Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm. “You see the excitement in the children.”
Boyd Mountain, encompassing 130 acres, is an idyllic setting, with some 70,000 – 80,000 Fraser firs grown to various heights on the mountainside and nine restored log cabins for those lucky enough to have booked far in advance.
The farm has been in the Boyd family for more than 100 years. In 1984, Dan Boyd started planting Frazer firs and the family began offering choose-and-cut trees in 1999. The quality reputation of the farm, its setting and its trees grew.
“We expect to sell around 5,000 trees this season,” said David Boyd, Dan and Betsy’s son, and manager of the tree farm, along with his landscaping business.
The aroma of the thousands of Fraser firs on the farm adds to the holiday spirit and it’s no secret that the Fraser fir is the most popular tree for the holidays.
Nicholson, who has worked diligently at the farm for eight years (when he’s not playing music with his band or as a member of the bluegrass band Balsam Range) has become an expert on all things Fraser.
“It’s the Cadillac of Christmas trees because of its wonderful piney smell, its soft-to-the-touch needles, which are good for hanging ornaments, and it will stay green the longest of any Christmas tree,” he said.
People who want the experience of hiking up the fields can choose the perfect tree — tall, short, slim or full and wide. Guests can take a bow saw and cut down their tree, if they want, or the Boyd staff will cut and bale it for guests.
People not into hiking up the fields will find trees recently cut at the hospitality tent, plus wreathes, garlands and ornaments.
Children will enjoy Santa there on weekend days and a few weekdays.
The farm is so beautiful, many families take photos for their holiday card, with the backdrop of thousands of Christmas trees, Nicholson said. Plus, some families who return every year take a family photo standing in the same place each year, so that the growth in the children can be seen year to year, with Fraser firs as a backdrop.
“Some people have been coming here 10-14 years, making it a family tradition,” Nicholson said. “We get to see the kids grow up.”
“The best part is seeing the kids running around outdoors and happy,” David said. “There’s also a sense of camaraderie, with all the families picking out their trees. It’s a feeling that was taken away during the pandemic, when we all had to stay 6 feet apart. You can feel the fun and excitement in the families that come here.”
From Near and Far
Guests to Boyd Mountain come from North Carolina, but also Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Texas.
“No website can prepare you for the beauty of this family owned Christmas tree farm and the cabins,” said Janice Hendrix of Leesville, South Carolina. “Choosing a Christmas tree initially brought me to Boyd Mountain in 2007, but the whole experience and wonderful hospitality keeps me returning. It’s amazing how after all these years, we are all still so excited for the next visit to come. The Boyd Mountain trees are perfectly manicured and cared for and the trees last well into January.”
The tradition grows with repeat visitors.
“It’s completely magical,” said Shaun Fulco Ballance of Sevierville, Tennessee, who is in the family’s fourth year of coming to Boyd Mountain. “If you’re a lover of Christmas like me, it’s a must do. I feel like a kid again when I’m there amongst the Christmas trees. If you happen to be there when it snows, you feel as though you’re visiting the North Pole where Santa lives.”
It’s a wonderful, multi-generational experience.
“I started out with my son coming to pick out the tree,” Ballance said. “This year will be the second year my grandson joins to help pick out trees. We get three — one for us, one for my son’s house and a little one for my grandson’s room. I like the family tradition. The Boyd family makes you feel like part of their family.”
The Tree Shortage
Much has been reported about the shortage of real Christmas trees.
“There has been a national shortage of Christmas trees for the last several years,” Nicholson said. “When the economy crashed in 2008, many of the older tree farmers got out of the business and few were planting. We saw the effects 10 years later, with fewer trees to meet the demand.”
To combat the shortage, David said the farm has been planting around 10,000 trees each of the last six years.
To make sure you get a real tree, Nicholson recommends choosing one before Thanksgiving.
“We urge people to rethink the need to wait to buy a live tree until after Thanksgiving,” Nicholson said. “To get the freshest premium trees to pick from, come the weekend before Thanksgiving, and try to come on non-peak days.”
With the popularity of Boyd Mountain’s trees, coupled with the tree shortage, the early bird will get the best selection.
“If you want a freshly cut tree, come early, because last year we sold out by Dec. 1,” David said.
Visit a choose-and-cut tree farm to experience your own Christmas magic.
“What we have here at Boyd Mountain is Christmas spirit — love, joy and happiness,” Nicholson said.