By Kelsea Forward
Joe Freeman, owner of Mistletoe Meadows Christmas Tree Farm in Laurel Springs, North Carolina, has been growing Christmas trees for 40 years. Hundreds of people visit his farm every year, but his biggest claim to fame is having a tree selected for display at the White House in 2007.
Freeman recently sat down with American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall to chat about the Christmas tree farm and tell the story of how his tree was selected as the official White House Christmas tree.
Freeman started in the Christmas tree business in high school by helping other local growers. Eventually, he branched out on his own to establish Mistletoe Meadows and now has several retail locations in northwestern North Carolina. He primarily grows Fraser fir trees as well as white pine, Leyland cypress and blue spruce.
Freeman explained that it takes about 12 to 14 years to grow a 7-foot-tall Christmas tree from a seed. Setbacks such as a freeze or deer problem can extend the process by a year or more.
President Duvall was surprised. “Other than children, I can’t think of anything I could invest in and not get any return for 10 years!” he exclaimed.
Freeman told the story of how his tree was selected for display at the White House. He had to first win a state contest, and then a national contest for the best Christmas tree. Then the White House staff visited the farm to select a tree for the Blue Room, and Freeman presented it to First Lady Laura Bush, who accepted it on behalf of the nation.
The tree selected was one of the very first trees ever planted at Mistletoe Meadows. It stood 18.5’ tall and the stump was about 18” across. Freeman keeps the stump from the tree as a memento to remember one of his proudest accomplishments.
Freeman has one message for people shopping for a Christmas tree this holiday season, and that is to find a real tree.
“Plastic has its place in this world, but not as a Christmas tree, not for me,” he said.
The busiest weekend of the year for Mistletoe Meadows is the weekend after Thanksgiving when they welcome over 1,600 guests. It is Freeman’s favorite time of year. He loves seeing families come to pick out a tree for their home.
Learn more about Mistletoe Meadows.
Kelsea Forward is the Communications assistant at AFBF.