Selling trees a holiday tradition
West Virginia has become part of Randy Farley's holiday tradition, and he wouldn't have it any other way.
Farley works as a Tennessee contractor most of the year, but come November he can be found hoisting Christmas trees around for customers at Capitol Market. Farley works for Lily's Landscaping of Flat Top.
"I've been doing this for about 14 years," Farley said. "I move here for about six weeks and stay in a motel.
"I figure we handle every tree 14 or 15 times," he said of the hard work that begins with harvesting trees on his friend's 1,500-acre tree farm and ends by tying a tree onto a car top.
He expects Lily's to sell 1,200 trees this season, and some customers already have bought theirs.
"I sold two yesterday and two today," he said Wednesday.
Most vendors were gearing up Wednesday at the outdoor market, readying their supply of wreaths, trees and other holiday decorations. Most said they expect the bulk of their trees to be sold the weekend of Nov. 30.
"A lot of people come out and look the day after Thanksgiving," said Felicia Hathaway, who is helping her husband, Alan, with sales at their Jameson Farms booth. "But most sales come after that."
But Alan Hathaway, who also owns the Purple Onion and WV Marketplace, said some people shop early and he sold four trees to one customer Wednesday.
"Most people want to get in front of it," he said of the trend toward earlier decorating. "They just want to get it done. That weather scare in October got people in the mood to start decorating."
That includes him. The Hathaways put their own live tree up in their Culloden home last week.
Felicia, a Cabell County teacher, comes to the market on weekends to help with the greenery booth.
"In the summer I help with the trees on the farm, mowing around them, trimming, maintaining them," she said.
Their son, Jameson, 5, the farm's namesake, was helping his dad unload a truckful of wreaths. Inside the market, 7-year-old Emily was helping at the register in the WV Marketplace.
Marvin Edwards said he would bring at least 500 trees from his Mason County farm for holiday sales. He sold about five trees the weekend before Thanksgiving and about 15 total so far.
"Next week will be our big weekend," Edwards said.
Buying trees early shouldn't be a problem when putting fresh-cut ones up inside the house, he said.
"The main thing is to keep them watered," he warned. "Don't let them dry out."
Vendor Sandy Parsons had the same advice for early decorators.
"The 16th was our opening day," she said. "Some people put them up at Thanksgiving because the family gets together around that time.
"You can put them up now as long as you water them," Parsons said. "Don't let the sap cover the fresh cut."
Parsons has been selling West Virginia holiday trees since 1977 at the market - a seniority that has earned her the first vendor space off the parking lot. She has customers who return every year, and some who know her from selling summer produce.
"But the vendors here are like a family," she said. "If I don't have something, I'll recommend another vendor. We've all been up here together for years."
Her biggest competition, she said, isn't other sellers but artificial trees - an option that tempts a lot of people.
"Why not come up here and help West Virginia farmers?" she asked. "Why would you buy an artificial tree when you can buy something that comes right from here?"
Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at email@example.com or 304-348-4832.