Christmas Tree Farm Fun in East TN
Leo Collins wears a bright red Santa T-shirt, making him easy to spot as he directs traffic into his gravel driveway. The owner of Bluebird Christmas Tree Farm near Heiskell expects to sell about 700 trees this year.
“The best part is sharing Christmas with 700 families,” says Leo. “Year after year, they come with their children, then with their grandchildren.”
His 30-acre farm backing up to Bluebird Ridge is a small operation with 7 acres planted with trees. He sold a dozen trees the first year in business about 24 years ago. Since then, he has established himself as a grower of Leyland cypress, Fraser fir, Virginia pine, white pine, Norway spruce and Arizona cypress.
People can cut their own tree or they can purchase freshly cut trees. The fragrance of evergreen hangs thick in a roofed patio where perfectly shaped Norway spruces line up in neat rows. While parents inspect for height and fullness, children seem to form attachments with a single look. “I want this one,” insists a youngster in a red coat, refusing to be swayed. A young boy wonders, “This one is high, Momma. How are we ever going to put things on the top?”
Other children weave between rows of in-ground trees and scamper up the hill to an old barn and log house. The restored house dates to around 1822 when the Overton family settled here in Anderson County. Leo bought the farm 30 years ago. He retired from TVA where he served as chief botanist. Throughout the year he shapes the trees two or three times. Bluebirds offer company and keep down the bug count.
Grandparents, parents and children all wearing red antler headbands follow a path through a weed patch before getting serious about picking out a tree. The older brother shouts, “Mom, I found the perfect Christmas tree!” One couple who tells me this is their first Christmas together — “We just got married” — gives full consideration to every white pine before he puts the saw to the trunk.
Leo seems pleased his farm creates a time for people to be together. In a small sales shop, he keeps a fire going in a stone fireplace so buyers can be comfortable while sipping hot chocolate in rocking chairs. He sells jars of honey and jam and a few crafts. Wreaths, swags, garland, and mistletoe are also available.
“People come out for the experience. The kids can connect with nature for a little bit. Some people will be here 30 minutes; others will be here literally four hours. The main thing for us is to make sure they leave here happier than when they got here,” Leo says, as his barn cat, Sadie, winds around his legs.
The staff of mostly teens is friendly and exceedingly helpful in fastening Christmas trees to car roof racks. A few tell how they came here when they were youngsters. Over the years, Leo’s four children helped during peak sales time.
Christmas tree farms are plentiful in East Tennessee and they offer a variety of trees and family-friendly activities, from hayrides to Santa events.
I’m wondering if you have memories of cutting down your own tree for Christmas. Send me an email and I’ll pass it along.