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Christmas tree merchant optimistic about holiday sales

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Jesse Akins stood in a field of Christmas trees at Yule Forest in Stockbridge, admiring a fraser fir he was considering.

Akins, 50, from McDonough, said picking out a tree at the farm is a "tradition" his family uses to kick off the holiday season.

"We come here every single year to get our tree," he said. "We normally reserve putting the topper on the tree for the oldest member of the family."

Yule Forest, located at 3565 Ga. Highway 155 North, has Leyland cypress, Virginia pine and Fraser fir Christmas trees.

Allen Grant, and his wife, Susie, have owned the tree farm for more than 25 years. He said the business has about 3,000 trees available. "We have a lot more trees than that ..., but they are in different age groups," said Grant. "Some of them are younger trees, and we plant trees every year."

The market is better now than it has been in recent years for individuals interested in buying a real Christmas tree, as opposed to an artificial one, Grant added.

"The weather, for the first time in about five years, has been great for our growing season," he said. "So, the trees are in really good shape."

Comparatively speaking, Grant said, the nationwide, economic recession did not reduce customers' willingness to buy trees at Yule Forest in 2008. Largely, he said, because fewer people traveled during the holiday season.

"More people ... came to the farm as a family outing, and got a real tree," he said. "We did find that people were buying less expensive trees, but the volume was up last year. We think our sales will be up from last year significantly. With the economy the way it has turned in the last 18 months, people have had a chance to recover a little bit, so we think we'll have more folks coming out to the farm."

Susie Grant said trees at the farm typically take five to eight years to grow, before they can be sold. "We'd like to sell all of them, but normally we don't," she said. "We normally run out of fraser firs, but we will always have trees on the farm."

The cost of the trees range from a low of $24, up to $150, for taller trees.

Kenneth Sprayberry, of Stockbridge, came to Yule Forest Wednesday with his mother, Carol, to pick out Christmas trees for his home, as well as a friend's restaurant.

As he carted off one of his newest finds in a wheelbarrow, he hailed the Grants for the quality of their trees, and their focus on customer service. "All the tree selections are nicely organized, and they're shaped beautifully," Sprayberry said. "I had contacted them about coming out the day before Thanksgiving, because, normally, they're closed. The people here were friendly enough to come out and cut down the trees," he added.

Allen Grant said visitors to the tree farm during the holidays will receive a "family experience." Additional holiday activities at Yule Forest include a jumping pillow, a 2,000-foot maze, a petting zoo and a nativity scene.

The facility is open seven days a week for the Christmas season, from 9 a.m., to dusk. For more information, call Yule Forest at (770) 954-9356, or visit www.aboutyule.com.