HATLEY – Three years ago, David Gray and his wife, Vera, decided that this year would be their last to sell Christmas trees from their farm.
And those plans haven’t changed.
Once the last available tree is tagged and cut, Gray’s Tree Farm will be no more, ending nearly three decades of business.
“I have mixed emotions,” David Gray said. “We’ve been doing this a long time and we’ve met a lot of people and made a lot of friends.”
The peals of laughter, the buzzing of saws, the roar of the old tractor that’s pulled thousands of families across acres of trees will die down soon enough.
“We’ve got a little while longer though,” he said.
When David Gray announced in 2007 that the farm would close in three years, it wasn’t a rash move. The decision had actually been made a couple of years earlier.
“It takes five years for the trees to mature, so you can’t just shut it down,” he said.
Gray’s trees have been bought across Northeast Mississippi, but they’ve also been sent to Atlanta, Nashville, Little Rock and even Houston, Texas. The governor’s mansion in Jackson has displayed Gray’s trees three times. And they’ve been known to show up in homes were families might not have been able to afford one.
“It’s been very enjoyable,” Gray said of the tree-farming business, which has been a year-round activity the past 28 years. Along with fertilizing, the trees need to be trimmed and inspected for insects.
That’s kept David Gray busy, along with his other job. He also has been hauling mail for 22 years, a job that sometimes makes running a tree farm tougher. But Gray said he has no regrets.
“I’ve been kept busy,” he said.
After this season closes, Gray said, he’ll plant pine trees to fill in some of the open spaces.
And then he’ll see Lowell Worthy get into the Christmas tree farming business down the road.
Worthy is opening his tree farm next year, having spent the past several years learning the ropes from the Grays.
“He’s been helping out and I’ve been teaching him all I know,” David Gray said. “He’ll do just fine.”
Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal