Christmas Trees in Leland: Patrick Tucker from Mahogany Rock Tree Farm
‘Tis the season – the season of holiday cheer, Santa visits and, of course, Christmas trees. Selecting a tree quickly becomes a moment of family memory and tradition. So where should a family go to celebrate such a momentous occasion?
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Megan Deitz
For Patrick Tucker, he waits under the giant inflatable Santa outside Brunswick Forest on Route 17 and hopes you’ll come to his tree lot.
Tucker is the owner, and farmer, of Mahogany Rock Tree Farm. For the past seven years he has been bringing fresh-cut Fraser Firs to Leland from his family’s farm in Sparta, NC in Alleghany County.
“I love Leland,” Tucker says. “It’s got that hometown atmosphere just like Sparta. There are good people here.”
Tucker began selling fresh-grown trees to Leland across from Waterford, where he returned for five years. But when Brunswick Forest asked him to move locations two years ago, he considered the security, visibility and relationship and decided to do it. It seems to be working out.
“I am like ‘The Tree Guy’ now,” Tucker laughs.
This season alone, Tucker estimates they will sell a few hundred trees from his Leland lot. In addition to his Brunswick Forest location, Tucker has a tree lot off of Market Street in Wilmington, where his 1969 fire truck is on display. Tucker sells his trees on the wholesale market as well. Although he couldn’t provide exact numbers mid-season, Tucker feels confident that he will move a few thousand trees this year.
And he has thousands to sell. North Carolina is the second largest producer of Christmas trees in the United States, behind Oregon. Yet there are only four counties that have the right conditions for growing trees.
“You can imagine how many trees our farm grows,” Tucker says.
Mahogany Rock Tree Farm has over 100 acres of land, with 1,750 trees per acre. In order to keep his trees as full and round as they are, Tucker has to prune and carefully shear each one at numerous times throughout the year. Yet he does all of this with a staff of only four to five people.
Tucker isn’t overwhelmed by this at all. He has grown up in the tree business; Mahogany Rock Tree Farm is a third generation family-owned property. After graduating from college with a BA in Communications from UNC-Wilmington, Tucker tried his hand at acting. He lived briefly in Los Angeles and Charlotte and had some success on various television series and commercials. But eventually he returned to the family homestead in Sparta, and now he couldn’t imagine having his own family anywhere else.
His son, Patrick, Jr., known as “Trick,” will be eight soon and his dad says he’ll be ready to take over Mahogany Rock Tree Farm as the fourth generation…someday. Right now, though, he is enjoying time spent with his mom, Julie who is the controller at the hospital in Sparta, and dad.
Tucker believes that what sets his tree lot apart from other tree retailers in the area is the freshness of his trees. Every week, he returns to the mountains, harvests a new batch of firs, and brings them down to his stand in Brunswick Forest.
He sells his trees based on height and shares that a Christmas tree grows about one foot every year, but starts its first four years in carefully monitored cultivation. So a six foot tree is actually ten years old. His family has been growing trees to sell in Leland long enough to sell thousands of fresh, ten year old Fraser Firs each year.
When asked about the future, Tucker seems content where he is. After the rush of the holidays, he will volunteer at his local Elementary School through the months of January and February before starting to work on the pumpkins they sell in the fall as well as next year’s trees.
“I see some expansion in our future, selling more trees,” he admits. “But I am happy with what I do.”
He also plans to continue his lot in Leland, not just for Leland but for himself.
“I spent seven years here in the area,” Tucker explains. “This is my way to give something back.”