Oh Fraser fir, where do you come from?

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Mountains and Fraser firs are all you can see for miles from Rodney Richardson’s back porch.

And that’s fine with him, because growing Fraser firs is how he makes his living. 
“As a kid, we used to go up to Mount Rogers and cut a Fraser fir for Christmas,” said Richardson, the owner of Mount Rogers Tree Farm in Grayson County. “We had one every year.”

When he began growing firs on Whitetop Mountain using the Mount Rogers Fraser fir seed, it was a no-brainer to name it after the mountain where they grow indigenously.

Fraser firs are native to a relatively small part of the highest elevations of Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. The cool weather-loving trees like the temperatures atop Mount Rogers, which is the state’s highest elevation at 5,729 feet. They also grow well on neighboring Whitetop, which is 5,520 feet. 

Richardson estimates that 99 percent of the Fraser firs grown in Virginia hail from Grayson.

‘Cadillac of Christmas trees’

In 1980, he planted his first stand of the special variety on his family’s 20 acres of farmland. Since it can take up to 10 years for the firs to grow to market size, Richardson continued to hold an off-farm job until 1990, when his tree sales began in earnest. Today he grows 375 acres of what he calls “the Cadillac of Christmas trees.”

Fraser firs hold their needles well, have a nice fragrance and are good for hanging ornaments. Each year the Richardson family harvests close to 15,000 large trees and about 3,000 tabletop-size trees, which average 36 to 42 inches. The biggest sellers are between 6 and 8 feet. Mount Rogers Tree Farm won the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association’s state championship in 2009 and 2012. 

Virginia tree farmers grow more than just Fraser firs. Find a list of other tree varieties and a tree locator on the VCTGA website at virginiachristmastrees.org.

If you’re still having trouble deciding what kind of tree to get, check out ProFlower’s article 16 Types of Christmas Trees to learn more. Don’t forget that, as a Virginia Farm Bureau member, you get 20 percent off any ProFlowers orders through the Member Deals Plus® benefit. Sign in, and save today!

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