Grinch-like drought has little effect on NE Mspi’s Christmas tree crop

Published 4:33 pm Friday, November 16, 2007

Christmas is safe, despite a drought that threatened northeast Mississippi’s holiday tree crop.

When customers start venturing onto the area’s choose-and-cut tree farms this weekend, they’ll find healthy trees that were unaffected by the monthslong dry spell that gripped much of the South. Irrigation was the key, though an expensive one.

“I spent about $1,600 alone on water over the summer,” said Mike Marolt, an Alcorn County tree farmer who uses municipal water on his 4 1/2-acre farm. “Next year I’m looking into tapping my own well. But things worked out.”

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Christmas tree producers expect to make about $1.6 million statewide this year, a recent report by the Mississippi State University Extension Service said. Estimates call for about 49,500 trees to be available.

Most customers coming in this weekend will tag trees at area farms, then will return after the Thanksgiving holiday to harvest their choices.

Marolt is in his 26th year in the business and said he’ll have about 400 trees from his farm available. He also is importing about 50 Fraser firs, “one of those Northern trees that some people like.”

John Arrechea, of the Springwood Christmas Tree Farm in Oxford, said he looks forward to this time of year — and not just because of the profit it brings.

“It’s always good to see the families and young people out here having a good time,” Arrechea said.

David Gray, of Gray’s Christmas Tree Farm near Amory, said the drought had little effect on his crop this year, though the final results aren’t exactly the same as he’d see in a normal year.

“We don’t have any 12-foot trees, but we do have some 11-footers,” Gray said. “Some of them might have grown to 12 with a little more water, but everything is fine.”