The Booth Christmas Tree Farm in Conway moved up its opening date to follow an ever-expanding Christmas season. This year, the farm opened Nov. 17 to accommodate customers wanting a tree before Thanksgiving.
The Christmas season is changing as people think of new ways to celebrate. But at the Booth Farm the mission remains the same: help people celebrate the holiday with a quality, traditional tree.
“The majority of people coming here have a family tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree and want to pass that down,” co-owner Lauren Booth said. “We are the only Christmas tree farm growing Christmas trees in six surrounding counties.”
Located on Adrian Highway just north of Conway, Booth’s grandfather started the farm in 1962. Now she operates it with her father, employing several others to help with the Christmas rush — but owning the farm is a year-round commitment.
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There is nothing like a real Christmas tree for Booth. She says a live tree has a smell that fills a house, looks better and isbiodegradable, unlike a plastic tree that will sit in a landfill after being discarded.
And based on foot traffic to the farm, a lot of people seem to agree. Each year the Booth farm sells over 1,000 trees, and people come from all around to buy them.
The farm grows six types of trees, all of which have different smells and looks. If the tree is grown on the property, the Booth farm has plenty of saws for you to cut down your own.
But the farm only sells 500 trees grown on site. One of the most iconic Christmas trees, the Fraser fir, does not grow in the sea-adjacent Horry County. Booth has to bring them in from the mountains of North Carolina.
Booth said it doesn’t bother her at all that people prefer trees not grown on site, but for her own Christmas decorating, she prefers a tree grown right on her property.
“I have used the Fraser fir in the past, but I prefer the Virginia pine,” she said. “And it looks better with flocking.”
Flocking takes a paper-glue mixture to create a safe, realistic snow-like coating over the tree. Booth does it herself on site after a customer picks out a tree. The whole process takes under 30 minutes, and the tree comes out looking frosted, even in South Carolina’s mild winter weather.
For the Booth family, taking care of the trees is a year-round project. Every spring they plant three trees for every one that is cut down, meaning thousands of new trees are placed into the dirt every year. This helps make sure that each year’s supply meets demand.
A Christmas tree does not grow overnight, or even over the course of a year. Depending on where it is grown, it can take almost a decade for a tree to reach 8 feet tall. So the Booths must plan for bad weather and other factors that might cause there to be a shortage of trees.
“Obviously not all those are going to make it, so we have to make sure we plant enough,” she said.
In fact, the economic recession starting in 2007 is still affecting the operations of the Booth Christmas Tree Farm. Across the nation there has been a Christmas tree shortage due to fewer trees being planted during the height of the Great Recession. This also has raised prices on trees both at the Booth farm and across the nation, Booth said.
More recently, Hurricane Florence damaged some of the farms’ stock, destroying many younger trees due to the high winds and standing water. But come March 2019, the Booths will replant trees and try to make up for past losses.
Despite the expanding seasons, economic recessions, hurricanes and plastic trees, the Booth Farm continues to sell real Christmas trees as it always has. Already this season, hundreds have turned out to get their first pick of a Christmas tree. And many of them, Booth said, are loyal customers.
“I’ve been a part of everybody’s Christmas tradition, because I grew up here,” Booth said. “We get a lot of people who remember us and our workers.”