A & A CHRISTMAS TREES HAVE BEEN A LOWCOUNTRY PILLAR FOR MORE THAN 40 YEARS
The day after Thanksgiving is a big day for the Youngblood and Doe families, and it has nothing to do with Black Friday sales. It’s the day their Christmas tree farm opens for the season.
Cars fill the parking lot and line the road as families search for the perfect tree at A & A Christmas Trees in Okatie.
The family-owned tree farm has been in business for more than 40 years, and visiting the farm has been a tradition for many Lowcountry families over the decades.
“People want the experience of cutting down a tree with their family,” owner Anne Doe said. “People come to me and say, ‘I used to come out here with my parents, and now I’m here with my children.’”
In 2015, Doe’s parents, Jerry and Dianne Youngblood, gave the tree farm to her and her husband, Daniel Doe Jr.
Jerry began planting trees in the 1970s, and he sold their first crop in 1981. At the time, Dianne was pregnant with their first child, Ashley. Jerry recalled seeing his extremely pregnant wife cutting down a tree with an axe because she couldn’t find a saw.
They named their new business Ashley’s Christmas Trees, after their first child. When their second baby, Anne, was born, the Youngbloods renamed the business A & A Christmas Trees.
Now, of course, their younger daughter and son-in-law are running the show. While Jerry and Dianne are officially retired, they still help a lot on the farm.
“Dad’s out here working with Daniel during the season, and Mom helps with the kids,” Anne said.
Dianne continues to make bows for the wreaths they sell, but now she has the help of her daughter Anne. Her 7-year-old granddaughter, Trinity, also likes to decorate the bows.
Anne also works full time as a hair designer with The Hair Designers in the Village at Wexford on Hilton Head Island. She takes time off from the salon this time of year to keep the tree farm running smoothly.
Daniel does all the planting in January and February, and cares for the trees year-round. He grows and sells three types of trees: Leyland Cypress, Murray Cypress and white pine. The farm provides saws and carts for chopping down and hauling the trees.
Every year, the family sells about 400 of their hand-planted and carefully pruned field trees.
The farm also sells abouts 700 Fraser firs each year. Since it’s too warm to grow Fraser firs in the Lowcountry, the Does buy them from a wholesaler in North Carolina.
Customers can also purchase handmade wreaths, garland, swags and mailbox toppers at the farm.
“Anne and Daniel have done a really good job here,” Jerry said. “I’m proud of the business, but I’m proud of Anne and Daniel too.”
Anne said there has been a shortage of Fraser firs for the past seven years. She said sellers are either overselling or going out of business. A & A has worked with the same wholesale grower for almost 20 years. They have tried to double their order of trees, but the wholesaler is unable to fulfill the request.
Because of all the growth in the Lowcountry, there’s even more demand for Christmas trees.
And although Fraser firs are the more traditional tree for Christmas, the other varieties that are grown at A & A are also popular. The Murray Cypress is the second most popular type of tree they sell.
While Fraser firs feature the classic Christmas scent and strong branches for holding ornaments, the two types of Cypress trees grown at the farm have little smell and small, soft needles. The white pine trees, however, have a soft pine scent and strong branches with long needles.
Daniel is grateful for his father-in-law’s experience in the tree business. Jerry has graciously shared the tricks of the trade with him.
“He made the mistakes years ago, so I don’t have to make them now,” Daniel said.
The Does’ 14-year-old daughter, Kambria, is already showing an interest in the Christmas tree business. She wants to understand the process and enjoys learning about it from her father.
A & A Christmas Trees is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It’s best to arrive by 4:30 p.m. to have enough time to select a tree before it gets dark. For more information, call 843-304-4485, or go to aachristmastrees.com.
BY AMY COYNE BREDESON | PHOTOS BY GUIDO FLUECK