The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

December 3, 2012

Ala. Christmas tree farm closing after 22 years


Associated Press

— VANCE, Ala. (AP) — After 22 years spent growing firs for families to decorate with ornaments, Billy and Katie Gandy are having a bittersweet holiday season as they prepare to retire their Christmas tree business.

"We wanted to get out while we were still able to sell off the trees we had left," said Billy Gandy, 71. "But we've enjoyed it. These trees have added years to our lives."

The Tuscaloosa News reports (http://bit.ly/TDODIs ) the couple started Gandy Christmas Tree Farm in 1990 and sold their first mature trees four years later. Their farm has been a holiday staple ever since. The Gandys would sell up to 500 Christmas trees every season until they decided to scale back five years ago. Where they once grew trees on 20 acres, they cut back to about 3 acres.

Now the couple's grandchildren are grown and there's no one around to help out with the work. Billy Gandy said tree farming can be a tough job. Each fall he would plant a fresh set of trees in the ground and trim them three times a year to get the desired fullness. The trees also require spraying every 21 days to prevent fungus from growing. Getting a tree ready to cut takes four years.

"He didn't realize just how much work it would be," said Katie Gandy, who would prepare for the holiday business by making wreaths to sell along with candles and other knickknacks in the Christmas shop the couple would set up in the garage.

The Gandys said they might ease into growing a different crop, such as blueberries. But the husband-and-wife farmers said they will miss they part they've played in so many families' Christmas traditions.

"Our best memories are of the grandkids running around the farm, seeing how much they enjoy it," Katie said. "We haven't even quit yet and we already miss it."