The Newberry resident and his wife Sharon recently had a return customer at their farm – Shine and Lee’s Christmas Trees – on U.S. Highway 76. For his second visit, this customer made it a family affair. He brought along his wife and 1-year-old.
When Ringer asked his customer if he needed any assistance, the gentleman kindly declined, informing the Christmas tree farmer he came prepared. He even brought a saw he purchased just that day – his family was getting the entire experience.
"He was jacked up," Ringer said.
That’s what the couple wants people to experience when they come to their farm – which is also their home – to choose their perfect pine. Ringer said it’s an event for the whole family and one that far surpasses any trip to the store to buy an artificial tree.
"It’s just a totally different experience," he said. "I guess I’m steeped in tradition a little bit."
He and Sharon are trying to provide the type of experience they had as children – the same their parents had as well. The hot chocolate, spiced cider, freshly cut wreaths and coloring books and candy canes for the kids are just added amenities.
"It’s a fun thing to watch the families," Ringer said.
They opened their farm last year, planting the first of their now 1,200-1,500 trees in 2003. They have transformed the former cow pasture in their front yard into uniform rows of Christmas trees of varying varieties and started inviting people out for their second year of operation last week on Thanksgiving. The ringers are open for business 1:30 p.m. to dark Sunday through Friday and 9 a.m. to dark on Saturday and encourage anyone and everyone to come on out to pick out their perfect pine for the holidays.
And that’s a task which Ringer says can have multiple facets.
The one aspect of the search he’s absolutely sure about, however, is that everyone has their own idea of what they want their tree to look like.
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," Ringer said. "It could be something I think might never sell, but it might be what someone wants."
There are a couple criteria he said people tend to pay the most attention to when selecting their special seasonal centerpiece.
Ringer said people need to be sure the size of their tree will work with the space they will be displaying it and some trees work better for certain spaces than others. Some varieties have limbs that no matter how a person cuts them, they just won’t work in specific spots so it’s important to have a good idea of where the tree is going before coming to the farm.
He also said people come seeking that classic Christmas tree shape. Unfortunately, trees don’t grow that way but can be tailored to have that traditional look with the right technique. He and Sharon will do everything they can to make sure customers go home with a tree with the right look.
Other aspects people take into consideration include tree aesthetics like fragrance and variety, Ringer said. He added some people come with a specific kind of tree – like a cedar, cypress or pine – in mind and only come looking for that variety.
Customers can spend an average of 30 minutes looking at and searching through the rows of trees the couple has at their farm until they’ve spotted the perfect one.
"They’ll walk through them and look them over," Ringer said.
Sometimes the selection process can take on a life of its own as each person in the family has their own idea of what the tree should look like.
"It just depends on what you want," Ringer said.
In the end, however, there’s always one deciding factor.
"Mom is always right," Ringer said. "Whichever one Mom wants, that’s usually the one they get."
Once customers find the one, it’s up to them how much of "the full experience" they want to enjoy.
Ringer said if they want the entire experience he’ll give them the saw and they can cut down the tree of their choice otherwise he can use the chainsaw. After the tree is down, it’s shaken, drilled and wrapped in preparation for its final trip and placement in the customer’s home.
He and Sharon are big believers in real trees and not just for their tree farm’s sake.
Ringer said Generation Y, according to studies done by the National Christmas Tree Association, is trending back to the traditional Christmas and real trees are part of that. Ringer added real trees are a renewable resource, they’re grown locally and they can be recycled as compost, mulch or other materials after their use. Artificial trees, on the other hand, can survive in landfills after they are thrown out for several years and can emit several different green house gases as they decompose.
Plus, studies also have shown live trees – if they are well watered and cared for – resist fire better than their artificial counterparts.
In the end, though, the choice boils down to the experience. Ringer said his customers come for the trees but whether they purchase one or not he’s fine with that. He and Sharon only want their visit to the farm to be memorable.
And there’s a good chance the perfect one is out there and they encourage people to come take a gander.
"They can come to the tree farm and pick out their perfect Christmas tree," Ringer said.
SHINE AND LEE’S CHRISTMAS TREES:
LOCATION: 20670 U.S. Highway 76, Newberry, SC; one mile west of airport road.
HOURS: 1:30 p.m. to dark Sunday through Friday, 9 a.m. to dark Saturday.
PHONE: (803) 276-0161
TREE VARIETIES: Leyland Cypress, Carolina Sapphire, Clemson Greenspire, Red Cedar, Virginia Pine, fresh cut Fraser Fir and fresh wreaths.
FRESH CUT TREE CARE TIPS:
Here are a few tips from the National Christmas Tree Association on caring for a fresh tree. Additional tips can be found at www.christmastree.org.
• Displaying trees in water in a traditional resevoir type stand is the most effective way of maintaining freshness and minimizing needle loss.
• Place the tree in water as soon as possible. Most species can go 6-8 hours after cutting the trunk and still take up water. Don’t bruise the cut surface or get it dirty.
• Make a fresh cut to remove about one-half inch from the base of the trunk before placing it in the stand. Make the cut perpendicular to the stem axis — do not cut the trunk at an angle or into a v-shape which makes it more difficult to hold the tree in the stand and also reduces the amount of water available to the tree.
• Use a stand that fits your tree. Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed.
• Keep displayed trees away from sources of heat, i.e. fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, direct sunlight. Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process, resulting in less water consumption each day.
AREA CHRISTMAS TREE FARMS:
Here are the nearest fresh Christmas tree farms in the area surrounding Union County:
• Davenport Christmas Tree Farm, 120 W. Deadfall Road, Greenwood, SC, (864) 229-2202.
• Hidden Trails Christmas Tree Farm, 331 Forget Me Not Drive, Ware Shoals, SC, (864) 980-3474.
• Shine and Lee’s Christmas Trees, 20670 U.S. Highway 76, Newberry, SC, (803) 276-0161.
• Wicker’s Christmas Tree Farm, 940 Mud Creek Road, Newberry, SC, (803) 321-0328.
• Christmas Hill Tree Farm, 150 Riverside Road, Chesnee, SC, (864) 592-2764.
• Cooley Springs Tree Farm, 418 Martin Camp Road, Chesnee, SC, (864) 461-7948.
Hours may vary at each farm so if you plan to visit one of the above establishments, call ahead. This information was provided by the South Carolina Christmas Tree Association at www.scchristmastrees.org.
QUICK PICK TIPS:
Here are a few tips from the National Christmas Tree Association when it comes to picking the right tree if you’re purchasing one from a retailer. Additional tips can be found at www.christmastree.org.
• Ask the retailer when he/she gets the trees, are they delivered once at the beginning of the season or do they obtain several shipments during the season?
• Ask your retailer which tree performs best in this climate.
• Ask the retailer about recycling the tree in your community.
• Go to a retail lot that is well lit and stores trees in a shaded area.
• Become familiar with tree types before heading to the retailer.
• Be sure you know the size of tree you need first.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Percentage of American consumers who plan to purchase a real Christmas tree in 2009.
New tree seedlings planted in winter/spring of 2009 across the United States to replace harvested crops and meet future increased demand for real trees.
The number of real Christmas trees sold annually in the United States.
The number of states with real Christmas tree production.
The number of acres in production in the United States for real Christmas Trees.
SOURCE: National Christmas Tree Association