The evening air has a mild winter nip, but the warm atmosphere at a local Christmas tree farm adds to the holiday spirit as families wander around, deciding which tree will best fit their homes.
For 40 years, area families have visited Wiggins Christmas Tree Farm on Highway 80 West, choosing from a live Leyland Cypress or a freshly-cut Frazier Fir to decorate for the holidays. Owner Robert Wiggins said the lucrative hobby of growing the trees started on a whim and grew into an enjoyable part-time business involving several family members.
A casual conversation more than four decades ago with a friend over recently purchased property led to Wiggins planting a few hundred trees. They didn’t fare so well, he said.
“They died. It was dry, and I didn’t know what I was doing.”
But he didn’t give up. The next year he planted more trees, did research and “watered them this time,” he said with a laugh.
That year, the trees were a success, and within a few years, they were ready to sell.
Fertilized, pruned, sprayed and nurtured, the Leyland Cypress trees drew families who wanted to pick out a live tree for their homes. Wiggins said people found it fun to browse through the fields, looking at the trees. Children would argue good-naturedly over whose choice would go home with them. They would frolic with the farm dogs, Scooter and Blue, and enjoy a visit with Wiggins’ wife, Anita, who invited them into the home to see the Christmas decorations.
The entire house is adorned with holiday scenery.
“Anita has OCD — Obsessive Christmas Disorder,” he said.
The children love going from room to room to view the different decorations, he said.
A trip to Wiggins’ farm is more than just a destination to choose a tree. It is a time for families to enjoy each other, including his own. The tree farm business involves children, grandchildren, and cousins, he said.
“They all like to be a part of it.”
Wiggins started out growing and selling the Leyland Cypress but discovered the most favorite tree seems to be the Frazier Fir.
“They have a smell, that Christmas smell, and have the perfect shape,” he said.
However, the South Georgia climate is too warm to grow Frazier Firs.
“It gets too hot. They die in the summer.”
But he started traveling to North Carolina to bring back loads of the firs for sale. They remain popular, but he still grows and sells plenty of the cypress trees.
With the increase in popularity of artificial trees, the live Christmas tree business isn’t as brisk as it once was, but Wiggins said he stays busy.
“People start coming after Thanksgiving,” and the month afterward brings a steady stream of people.
If someone wants to cut down their own tree, they are welcome. However, “I have a chainsaw that takes care of that in a minute,” he said. Choosing a still-living tree ensures a buyer that the tree is as fresh as possible and should last throughout the holiday season.
The firs are also fresh, as Wiggins brings back small loads and makes return trips when he runs out.
“I have another load coming this week, and we will have plenty,” he said.
To his knowledge, his is the only remaining Christmas tree farm in Bulloch County, where you can choose your own tree, he said.
Wiggins Christmas Trees is located on Highway 80 West in Statesboro, just a few miles past the city limits. They are open seven days a week during the holiday season, from 1–7 p.m., he said. For more information, contact Wiggins at (912) 536-4536.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.