• July 23, 2014

O’ Christmas trees

Michigan farmer brings harvest to Heights

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Posted: Friday, December 7, 2012 4:30 am | Updated: 1:29 pm, Fri Dec 7, 2012.

Real or artificial, that is the question.

Some prefer the tidiness and ease of the artificial Christmas tree while others long for fresh scents through homes adorned with a freshly cut Douglas fir or Scotch pine.

If you’re in the latter category, tree farmer Doug Warner might have what you need. For the past three years, he’s brought trees down from Michigan to sell in Harker Heights — trees he grows on his Michigan farm.

“There’s a lot of tree growers up there, trees in people’s backyards,” Warner said. “Here, it’s not so easy to just go out and cut down a tree, and plus, the weather is nicer.”

Warner learned about Harker Heights through his stepfather, Gordon Tessman, who has operated a Christmas tree lot in Copperas Cove for 27 years. Tessman also lives in Michigan and transports trees from his home to Texas.

Real tree fan

On a recent warm Friday morning, Diane Suarez of Killeen walked through Warner’s Christmas tree lot in Market Heights Shopping Center with her friend, Kendra Patterson. She had already picked out a large white pine, which Patterson was going to transport home in the back of her truck. Suarez said she and her family prefer a real tree.

“I’m from New Hampshire, and my father has worked for a nursery for 50 years, so he brought us trees every year.”

She also prefers buying from local independent contractors. Before coming to Warner’s lot, Suarez checked out the trees at the local retail chain stores and was not impressed.

“They were all brown and already dead,” she said. “(Warner) has good prices and good trees.”

Car accident

Warner, 45, has been in the Christmas tree business since he was 15. When he was 26, a car accident left him with a spinal-cord injury and wheelchair-dependent. But that hasn’t slowed him down, he said. Raising Christmas trees is a year-round job, one he does not expect to give up anytime soon.

“You just keep going and do what you have to do,” he said, smiling brightly at customers approaching the cash register at his Christmas tree lot on Central Texas Expressway.

Warner expanded his business this year to include the second location in Market Heights at the invitation of the shopping center’s manager. Heights City Manager Steve Carpenter recommended him, he said, after Warner filed his business permit with the city.

“Next year, I’m going to have a big tent near Target with holiday decorations. I’m going to make it a really great experience.”

Warner and his trees usually arrive the day before Thanksgiving and stay until Dec. 23. He accepts cash and credit cards, but next year he plans to take debit cards, as well. His lots are at 401 W. Central Texas Expressway and in Market Heights Shopping Center.

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