Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers or agriculture industry workers. Carrie McClain of Hart T-Tree Farms is one of those industry leaders. The #FarmFeatureFriday campaign will run through December 2021 on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages and from August to December will feature younger farmers in the industry. Be sure to tune in each Friday afternoon on social and help show your support for our local farmers
“The joy of a Christmas tree is the journey and story of getting it,” says Carrie McClain of Hart T-Tree Farms in Grassy Creek. In much the same respect, Carrie found her true love for agriculture through her life’s journey that brought her back to the family farm. Carrie’s dad started the farm in 1976 after selling trees first in the front yard of his childhood home in Chicago when he was a boy and later at tree lots around the city.
Although the farm started in Michigan, they moved to our state after a trip to buy Fraser Fir Christmas trees in the area left him in love with the land. “I didn’t grow up on the farm,” Carrie said, “and honestly I never had the intention of coming to work here until my husband and I took a trip to Washington State.” On their trip, Carrie and her husband toured an apple orchard that was making a huge impact on the community through a variety of programs and innovations. “I saw their operation and became inspired,” she said, “there was a part of me that wanted to make a difference in our home community in the same way with our family farm.”
Since coming home to the Christmas tree farm, Carrie has helped put her own innovative twist on things to influence the lives of those around her and has fallen in love with the world of agriculture. “I didn’t expect to be here this long but I fell in love somewhere along this crazy journey,” she said, “not only did I fall in love with the farm, but I fell in love with ag itself. It’s so fundamental to who we are as people because it’s the foundation of our everyday lives.”
Carrie manages the marketing and sales of trees on the farm as well as helps develop new ideas to diversify what the farm offers. She created Little Saps, which allow people to send the gift of a tree to a loved one. “The purpose of these trees is to give people a way to give a meaningful gift,” Carrie said, “it’s been very inspiring to see this new venture take off because trees provide a sense of hope to people and knowing we had a hand in that is very rewarding.”
Although facing the constant storm of uncertainty can be daunting, Carrie loves the fact that agriculture brings her back to her roots on a daily basis and connects her with the earth. She also enjoys educating the public on the importance of the Christmas tree industry to North Carolina, especially the Fraser Fir. “Without the Fraser Fir tree, most of the farmland in the mountains of our state would have been sold for development,” she said, “not only is it important to our farmers because it preserves the land for farming and provides a viable cash crop, but it also makes a beautiful Christmas tree in consumer homes.” Fraser Firs naturally have a beautiful green color, pleasing smell, sturdy branches and soft needles that make it the perfect holiday tree for your home.
Due to the amount of rainfall the N.C. mountains get each year, the Fraser Fir also has excellent needle retention which means it lasts a long time once cut. Carrie encourages buying live, local trees for Christmas from family farms like her own and others across the state because it helps the overall health of your community. “Enjoy the experience of choosing a tree with your family and friends each year whether you visit a choose & cut, a tree lot, or even your local big box store. “Trees purchased at any of these locations are from a local N.C. farm,” she said.
Choosing the right tree for your home is a memory-making experience. “No two trees are alike and it’s fun finding a different one each year,” Carrie said.
For those seeking a career in the agriculture industry, Carrie reminds you to be patient and ready to face the challenges that come your way. “Resilience is key but it’s just like what one of the cards on our Little Saps tree says, ‘Through the dark soil and tall weeds, mighty trees grow from small seeds,'” Carrie said, “if your roots are strong you can weather any storm.”
In the future, Carrie and her family hope to lean more into the joy of Christmas on the farm and invite customers to not only tour the farm and learn about the Christmas tree industry, but make it a tradition that their families come back to year after year. “I was disconnected from the farm growing up, so I am hoping that my story and experience can help others fall in love with agriculture the way that I did,” she said. When she is not busy selling trees, you can find Carrie simply enjoying the peace and quiet of the farm with her husband and three children.