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A NEVER ENDING STORY
Christmas tree tradition grows in Hampton

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The Worthington Tree Farm is hidden. It's around a corner, behind some trees, down in a hollow.

It's hidden like a surprise, and when cars come around the drive, it's suddenly, beautifully there -- big red barn, lines and lines of Christmas trees, on rolling slopes of clover.

Earl Worthington, owner of the farm, said, sometimes, when patrons pull up in the nippy November weather, they say the scene is breathtaking.

"When people come down and around this curve and see these trees, and the red barn, they get ecstatic sometimes. They really do. Especially when they come down from Atlanta. They think it's pretty, I guess," Worthington said.

There are 14,000 Christmas trees growing on the 26.5-acre farm, in Hampton on the Clayton-Henry line.

Opening on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., the Worthington farm will be helping people choose and cut their own, perfect, Christmas tree. Open everyday until December 20, the farm will sell between 1,500 and 2,000 trees, a number that see to stay steady despite the condition of the economy.

"The economy's ups-and-downs don't seem to affect the choose-and-cut tree farms," Worthington said. "For years and years, we've held pretty steady. I know retailers are worried because Christmas is their big sale season. It's our only sale season. I hope, if people are going to spend, they're going to choose a Christmas tree, and a big family outing."

Choosing a tree at Worthington's is continuing a 35-year tradition. The farm used to be a working family farm, with a two-room log cabin, but that changed when the Worthingtons took it over.

They started planting trees after reading a story in the newspaper about the idea of choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms, and sold about 30 trees in 1973, which kind of surprised him.

At the time, the Worthingtons had the only tree farm in the Southern Crescent, and they only had one type of tree, a native cedar.

Now, they sell a variety of trees, each with a different color, shape, size and smell. They have Virginia Pine, White Pine, Leyland Cypress, Fraser Fir, and Arizona Cypress.

Each one of the 14,000 is grafted into a sturdy, native root stock, and watched after for the four to eight years it takes to grow.

Worthington said the farm sells better, higher-quality trees, than the pre-cut, agribusiness trees sold out of parking lots this season. But he knows, too, that what people are really looking for at the farm is that feeling, when they come around the corner and realize they're in the country.

"It's the experience," he said. "A lot of families will come out two or three years, when their children are a certain age. And they've done that, and they never come back until there are grand kids. Then,the children bring out the children, when they're that certain age."

The Worthington Tree Farm is located at 145 Twin Oaks Drive, in Hampton. For more information, call (770) 478-3677, or visit www.georgiachristmastrees.com.