When I questioned tree farm owner Steve Lockett about pesticide use around these trees, he explained that he hadn’t found that necessary. On the three acres where his family’s been growing and selling you-cut Christmas trees for years, the retired nuclear scientist takes a minimalist approach. If beetles eat the top of a tree, the tree typically grows back. He admits that bagworms have been pesky on the blue spruce. He eventually discovered that Norway spruce have been the most dependable for growing near the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee. Lockett said simple mowing can keep weed growth down while seedlings are getting started; then mature trees shade out weeds on their own.
It was a balmy 62 degrees when our family chose our tree to cut at Buttermilk Farms. We spent less than $40 for a six-foot evergreen just right for our home. “Some years we lose money,” shared Lockett, “and some years we make a little bit.” The experience included a free hayride too.