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For Appalachian student, Christmas tree farming is a family affair

Sophomore accounting major Katelin Fox (third from left) stands with her sister, Nicole (right) and their parents, Ben and Annette, on their family-run Christmas tree farm. The Fox family has been growing Christmas trees in Boone since the early 1990s. Maggie Cozens | The Appalachian

Sophomore accounting major Katelin Fox (third from left) stands with her sister, Nicole (right) and their parents, Ben and Annette, on their family-run Christmas tree farm. The Fox family has been growing Christmas trees in Boone since the early 1990s. Maggie Cozens | The AppalachianEnjoying the sight of fresh Christmas trees is something that only happens in December for some people.

But for sophomore accounting major Katelin Fox, she’s been seeing Christmas trees outside of her window since she was born.

Katelin Fox’s family has owned Fox Farms ever since her dad, Ben Fox, switched from growing tobacco to Christmas trees in the 1990s.

“[Nicole Fox] and I have always grown up with Christmas trees, so it’s never been weird for us,” Katelin Fox said. “Like I said, I remember growing up and running through the trees with the cats and dogs. It’s been a really good experience, even if the market isn’t what it used to be. I’m glad we have Christmas trees because it sets us apart.”

But as Katelin Fox continued growing up, she realized how unique her situation was.

“I didn’t think it was anything special, but when I tell people I live on a Christmas tree farm, they think it’s the coolest thing ever,” Katelin Fox said. “So, I guess as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate it more. It is kind of cool that I can just walk to my backyard and chop down any Christmas tree I want.”

The family pushes the “no frills experience,” which sets them apart from the bigger Christmas tree farms.

“In the last 10 to eight years, small farmers are getting choked out by the big farmers and there’s nothing you can do about that,” Ben Fox said. “It’s harder to find buyers.”

And the industry has gotten even tougher.

“It’s been tough the last three or four years,” he said. “And it’s nothing against the big growers. Big growers have contracts with Lowe’s, Home Depot, Food Lion or Walmart. There’s no way I can provide them with a 100,000 trees.”

But the family has continued to work together to keep the farm going.

“We do it all together, and the girls help when they can,” Ben Fox said. “After Thanksgiving, we were out here bailing trees together.”

The Christmas tree farm isn’t the family’s only source of income, but rather a way to get “the kids through college.”

But Katelin Fox said she thought that was part of the farm’s success.

“I think the family experience, like the fact that we’ve done this together for so long and it’s kind of a side business for us, whereas all these other big growers, they have year-round to plant it,” Katelin Fox said. “But all of us have so much going on… we’re not trying to price gouge people. We just want everyone to have a Christmas tree for Christmas.”

Ben Fox said prices can range from $20 to $35, but he works to accommodate people.

“If somebody comes up and says, ‘I’ve don’t have $25, $30 bucks for a tree,’ then I say ‘well, what do you have,’ and if they say ‘$10 dollars,’ then I’ll give them one,” Ben Fox said.

The farm is now open and is located on 1386 Old Bristol Road in Boone.

 Story: ANNE BUIE, Managing Editor

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