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Pa. tree farm closing after more than four decades

December 23, 2011|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • Doris Hopkins at Flowerwood Farms in Clay Lick, Pa.
By Roxann Miller

CLAY LICK, Pa. — Christmas just wouldn't be the same without the aroma of pine and a field full of perfectly sculpted evergreen trees.

But, after more than four decades, 89-year-old Lee "Tucker" Hopkins and his wife Doris, 66, are closing out an era.

This year is the official end to the Flowerwood Farms Christmas tree farm off Two Top Road in Clay Lick.

Hopkins' health has forced him into an early retirement from the dream he began as a teenager.

In the early 1930s, Hopkins read about a new industry of planting Christmas trees on strip mines in Pennsylvania that piqued his interest.

He held on to that dream until 1970 when he squirreled away enough money to buy 30 acres of land in Clay Lick.

That was the year that Hopkins paid $7,500 for 30 acres and planted 3,000 trees.

Originally, his dream was to supplement his full-time job in construction, but over time it became a love for Hopkins.

"I'm going to miss a lot of people. I have a couple of customers who came every year for almost 30 years," Hopkins said. "The one guy lives down in Frederick now, but one year he came from Virginia to get his Christmas tree."

Driving onto his property explains Hopkins loyal following. Every tree is perfectly sculpted.

Some customers visit Flowerwood Farms in August to tag their tree, then return after Thanksgiving to cut the tree, hoist it onto their car and transport it to their home to celebrate the holidays.

"One customer wanted to mark his trees five years ahead, but I told him I couldn't because anything could happen to the trees in that time," Hopkins said.

Doris is happy to help her husband, but confessed that she doesn't have the knack for growing the perfect Christmas tree like her husband does.

"I don't have a green thumb. I'm the one who killed most of these plants," she said with a chuckle.

In its prime, the farm had 50,000 trees with up to 70 people scoping out the finest evergreen ranging from $25 to $40 for six different varieties.

Due to his health, Hopkins has relied on help from friends like Glenn and Verma Myers of Greencastle, Pa..

Watching the tree farm close is sad for the couple.

"I think people enjoy coming out and getting a tree and getting involved. They make a family thing of it and bring their kids," Glenn Myers said. "They take pictures, and it's just a good thing for the family. Families are losing so much of the natural touch of Christmas."

For 35 years, Donald "Donnie" Cordell of Mercersburg has carefully selected his live tree from Flowerwood Farms.

This year, he and his wife chose a 6-foot Blue Spruce to adorn their home.

"It's sad (that they are closing). I just like the smell of a live tree," Cordell said. "He (Hopkins) has a nice selection of trees, and he and Doris are just great people."

Cordell, 60, and his children and grandchildren have made many memories choosing the perfect Christmas tree at Flowerwood Farms.

"I don't know what I'll do now. When I can't get trees up there anymore there's going to be an empty space. It's not going to be quite the same," Cordell said.

Hopkins said the Christmas tree farm won't have official hours next year, but will have a few trees available for sale.

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