CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Every year, it seems people want a Christmas tree earlier," Bob Whipkey said this week from his porch, overlooking his 6-acre tree farm in Big Chimney. "This year was no different. I had a record crowd the day after Thanksgiving and that weekend."
Whipkey along with other West Virginia farmers, provide area residents the chance to make a trip to the farm, pick a Christmas tree and cut it down to take home for the holidays.
The 2013 West Virginia "Choose-And-Cut" Christmas Tree Farms catalog features 31 West Virginia farms providing the service across the Mountain State.
Business has been good for Whipkey.
"So far this year the business has continued to grow to the point where we don't advertise anymore because we get all the customers we can handle actually," Whipkey said. "I even sold one tree this year, the largest tree I've ever sold at 16 feet tall, the last day of October. I've never sold one that early."
Rick Dungey, spokesman for the National Christmas Tree Association, said it's an interesting time for the industry.
"While there has been some consolidation and reduction of total farms growing trees, consumer demand is still strong and predicted to get stronger," Dungey said. "There will always be strong demand for the on-farm, cut your own tree experience. That's an important tradition for many families."
After a while, farmers like Whipkey start knowing what to expect each year.
"The people who come early, right after Thanksgiving, always want the big trees," Whipkey said. "Then you have the people calling about a week before Christmas saying they need a tree and those are the easiest to deal with because they will come and grab just about the first tree they see."
Whipkey sells his trees at $35 regardless of size or species. He typically closes his farm the week of Christmas. After the selling season it's onto maintenance, he said.
Removing the tree stumps from the ground take about a month to month and half, Whipkey said. Then it's onto mowing and trying to deter the deer and sheering trees.
Larry and Syble Wilkerson operate the Wilkerson Tree Farm in Lincoln County.