Growing a holiday tradition
Brushy Fork Pines in Old Monroe lets customers cut their own Christmas trees
By Brett Auten
Once you head north on Highway 79 and then eventually turn west on winding Highway 47, you will come across a narrow gravel road.
Nearly a mile down South Lindsey Road, the land opens up to your right and splayed across the horizon are the signature signs of the holiday season.
Located in Old Monroe, Brushy Fork Pines is a rarity, a place where holiday traditions are curated and cherished.
Brushy Fork Pines is a chose-and-cut-your-own-tree farm. Rick & Tonyia Hollandsworth first launched the concept in 1993 on a nine-acre patch of land behind their home. But cultivating a Christmas tree farm isn’t as simple as placing them in the soil and letting Mother Nature take over and do the rest.
After researching online and discovering and joining the Christmas Tree Farm Network, a necessary and helpful system of connections, the Hollandsworths were off and running. It takes a tree seven years to become Christmas-ready, and in 2001 they opened for their first season.
“Rick has farmer blood in him,” Tonyia said. “The property we live on is actually two miles away, and there was a big field back there, and he can’t let a field sit empty. So we both said, ‘hey Christmas trees.’ In my mind, I had the whole Norman Rockwell thing going on. But we just had a little corner of the garage that Rick had tarp off, and I sat there in my little, cold garage with a cash box, $3 a foot.”
Brushy Fork Pines didn’t explode with business that first year but the Hollandsworths were determined and word and its reputation began to spread. Over the years, the garage turned into a gift shop, and it finally got to the point where they needed to expand.
In 2001, the Hollandsworths took what was a cow pasture and by 2007 turned it into the Brushy Fork Pines that you drive up to today.
It has always been “choose and cut,” at Brushy Fork Pines, meaning they give you the saw, you tell them what size you want, and they will point you in the right direction.
When it comes to newbie customers, the Hollandworths have seen it all. Whether it is women showing up in mini-skirts and high heels or trees tied to the top of sporty Jaguar, they echo that you should come prepared and with room in your vehicle.
And the gift shop has expanded from the corner of a garage to a full-fledged cornucopia of holiday gifts, especially an assortment of custom-made bows.
“We knew we had to have someplace for people to come in and warm up and we have the complimentary hot chocolate and candy canes and coloring books for the kids,” Tonyia said.
Customers are also encouraged to sign a banner that the Hollandworths have and send to United States servicemen and women, wishing them a happy holiday and thanking them for their service.
“The first year, I hardly had one filled up,” Tonyia said. “Now we are doing two and three. It is the least we can do. If someone has a request, we will do that, or if I know someone from work has a loved one deployed, we will send it to them. It has become part of the tradition.”
While Tonyia holds down the fort inside, Mike makes sure that the Scotch and White Pines are healthy and ready for your home. Both Hollandworths work full-time so Brushy Fork Pines is open weekends only, beginning after Thanksgiving and going up until they sell out, which has been the case the last two years.
“It is a business and there is money to be made if you don’t mind working when it is 100-degrees because you hand shear every one of these trees during June and July,” Rick said.
But what makes Brushy Fork Pines unique and the main reason it continues to thrive is the tradition.
“We have had people who have been with us for 16 years,” Rick said. “I don’t know their names, but I recognize them, and some people come up here to have a good time. We’ve had people out here for four or five hours. There have been snow storms so bad that everything is still shut down, but we will still sell a thousand trees.”
For more information on Brushy Fork Pines, visit www.brushyforkpines.com.