By Daniel Silliman
There's an imported forest of freshly cut Christmas trees at the Atlanta State Farmers Market.
They're up on stands, rows and rows of fluffed-up and shaped-up Tannenbaums. They're stacked in piles, in drifts that line the streets through seasonal sheds. They're suspended from the roofs, ropes hoisting the trees up for exhibition, where they twirl slightly twirling in the Saturday morning sun.
The smell, the scent of conifer needles, comes up like a swell of good tidings, a flush of feelings of joy, the rush of Christmas.
Last year, there were 19,890 Christmas trees sold at the Atlanta State Farmers Market in Forest Park. Growers reported the average tree sold for about $40, and they took in a total of $795,600, in the tree business blitz, which lasts from late November until the market closes, for the one day a year it closes, on Christmas Day.
Aaron Allen, a Jonesboro High School graduate and former U.S. Marine who's been selling trees since he got out of the service, said he expects to sell just as many trees from Andy Martin's Fayette County farm.
"We'll probably sell just as many as we sold last year," Allen said. "We'll just make less money."
The economy has put a bit of a cramp in the business, not because people stopped buying trees, but because costs rose sharply this last year.
Fertilizer, an oil-based product, cost about 400 percent more this year, according to Joel Owens, a grower from Jackson County, North Carolina.
But still, selling Christmas trees means selling magic, excitement and cheer. None of the sellers seemed gloomy, on a Saturday when young families, wholesale buyers and fancy ladies in colored faux-fur coats were all wandering through the trees.
Owens, who is four-foot-nine, tells shoppers cheerfully, "I know Santa Claus and everybody."
James Murphy, working with a chainsaw the next shed over, said, "I love it, this type of work. I'm a people person, and everybody's happy."
The young family from Newnan, browsing through the Fraiser Firs nearby, was certainly happy. Bill Andrews held his baby daughter, Kathryn, and his wife, Michelle, put her hands in her big coat pockets and smiled.
Michael Halicki had his week-old baby in a car seat, as his wife Jennifer looked through a selection of Tennessee-grown evergreens.
"Michael," she said, "I think I found it," and the Halickis went off into the fresh-cut forest, to find their family's Christmas tree.