LAYTON -- When Donald Neville had people inquire about this year's selection of Christmas trees from his tree farm, his answer might have surprised them. He told them if they wanted the perfect tree, they should not bother coming to see his selection.
"I had a lot of people come to buy trees, but I tried to make sure they were aware of the fact that the trees had been picked over and they wouldn't find a perfect tree," Neville said. "I told them I didn't want them to be disappointed if they drove from Salt Lake or Provo or Ogden."
Neville, who has been selling trees for seven years from his tree farm at 1875 W. 1000 South, said his inventory was down this year because not enough trees were planted in recent years. But despite the low inventory, tree-shoppers still showed up and left with a tree.
"Most of the people did buy trees," Neville said. "They were trees with character, that's what we advertised."
The ones with character, as Neville describes, were bare on sides and dry on the bottom. Despite the low inventory, Neville said business was good.
That was the trend among tree farms in the Top of Utah, showing that real Christmas trees have not been overtaken by artificial trees.
Shawn Meldrum has been growing trees for 17 years at his tree farm at 2073 W. Gentile St. He sold them to nurseries before deciding last year to sell some for Christmas.
It proved to be a good decision, and he sold them again this year and had a better turnout.
"There's definitely a significant number of people who come out for the experience of cutting down their own Christmas tree," Meldrum said.
The tree-farming business has endured the recent fall in the nation's economy and still found success in a time when people may have been more frugal than in the past.
"We have not at all felt any kind of adjustment to tree sales due to the economy," said Tim Stettler, of North Pole Pines, 2546 W. 3100 North, in Farr West. "It's been steady."
The only real difference this year, Stettler said, was the weather. Last year during the weekend after Thanksgiving !-- the most popular time at his tree farm for customers to pick out and cut down their trees, Stettler said -- the weather was in the mid-50s and sunny. This year, there were six inches of snow on the ground and the temperature was in the 20s.
Despite the colder weather, North Pole Pines sold 250 trees, even though customers did not spend as much time there as they normally would.
"People didn't take as long to pick out their trees," Stettler said. "They get a little less fussy. They don't necessarily want to see every tree before they leave."
Stettler said a third of his customers every year seem to be new ones, so he doesn't know what happened to the ones who don't come back.
He also sees a lot of repeat customers, although they may not return every year. He said the customers give him a variety of answers as to why they buy trees there each year.
Regardless, there have always been people to buy, and farms annually sell all of their available trees.
"People like cutting it themselves, so they know when it was cut and that it will last a long time," Meldrum said. "When trees are shipped in from out of state they're cut sooner and sit in trucks or on a lot for weeks. Here they're going to get cut and within a few hours they'll be sitting in water."
For that reason, tree farmers say, people will return year after year to select their Christmas tree and cut it down themselves.
"When you have the inventory and have the right variety of trees it's really good business," Neville said. "I wish 15 years ago I would have known what I know now and I would have had 15 acres."