Like a pair of Christmas grinches, Hurricanes Sally and Zeta battered and beat the trees at Parker Acres Christmas Tree Farm in Bay Minette.
Sally’s southern winds tipped the trees this way, breaking the roots. The Parkers stood the trees back up. Weeks later, Zeta’s northern winds blew them that way, snapping the trees’ remaining underground core.
The newest Baldwin County family farm lost nearly a third of its 550 trees in those storms.
But here, Christmas would come without the rows of Virginia Pines. Here, the Parkers know that Christmas means a little bit more.
“This is what we had planned when we started this,” said owner Tim Parker. “Money is not what we’re after, it’s more to try to minister to as many people as we can to get them back to the idea that Christ is the reason for the season.”
Despite the loss. Despite needing to open a year earlier than their business plan’s projected date, Parker said the farm has been a blessing.
“We have had a blast, this has been one of the funnest things we’ve ever done,” he said. “We knew we wanted families to come have a good time but it has been unreal watching kids running around and folks hanging out. I can’t begin to tell you how blessed we are.”
Four years ago, Tim and Brenda Parker planted 550 trees on their Bay Minette property. Tim has recently retired from the Alabama State Police and had grown Christmas trees as a hobby. The pair planted 550 so they could “start small.”
With a little help from Auburn University and the Southern Christmas Tree Association, the trees grew quickly in the sandy soil and the farm was on track for a 2021 opening. Then, hurricane season destroyed a third of the crop.
Those trees left standing were already towering over the fields at 8 and 9 feet tall. By next year they would be giants standing 14 feet high and hard to sell. It was time to open the gates.
The farm received a warm welcome from local families eager to head out and begin the holiday season. Within two weeks, all the tallest trees had been purchased and were already glowing with lights in living rooms around the county.
There are plenty of six-foot trees left and Parker said families have even sought out tinier greens for their décor. Next year visitors will choose from Virginia Pines and a new field of Leland Cypress, Green Giants and Carolina Sapphires that are patiently waiting for their turn to shine.
“We’re just happy everyone can come out and find exactly what they are looking for,” Parker said. “We are so blessed.”