Pine Mountain Tree Farm provides Christmas trees and memories for generations of families during the holiday season.
Written by Eileen Bailey | Photographed by Joe Worthem
The rolling hills of deciduous forests shedding orange, red and yellow leaves that twirl down onto Alcorn County Road 608 give way to the 4-acre Pine Mountain Tree Farm at the top of the rise. A left turn under the log archway brings visitors to the cabin and small barn in the center of the farm.
On a white sign are the words “Cherish the Experience.” Individually, these words are simple. But when put together with a visit to Pine Mountain Tree Farm, these words take on a much deeper meaning, not only for the guests to the farm but also for its owners, Mike and Debra Marolt. Since 1983, the Marolt family has been part of the lives of countless families in and around Alcorn County.
Generations of families have passed under the arched entryway and spent time wandering among the trees trying to find just the right one. Amy Alred, daughter of the Marolts, said some families have been visiting the farm for more than 25 years. People who brought their children now come with their grandchildren in tow. There is something about picking out a tree together that bonds the family, and also forms a connection with the Marolt family.
“You develop a relationship with them,” Alred said. “This is a part of their lives and a tradition.”
A breeze blowing through a stand of cypress trees and white pines of varying sizes conjures the smell of Christmas as Marolt, a former employee of the Mississippi Forestry Commission, talks to customers, many he has known for years. The conversations center around the lives of families, children and grandchildren. With yellow tape in hand, and the occasional pole to check height, customers lay claim to the trees they plan to come back and get to put in their homes during the holidays.
Smiling at tiny 5-month-old Amelia Kate, who poses with her grandmother Sherry Rolison as grandfather Paul takes their picture in front of a towering Japanese cypress, Marolt said there is just something special about the experience on the farm.
“Our trees are the center of the home for the Christmas season, and we get such a satisfaction with that,” he said.
Rolison agrees. She and her husband have known the Marolt family for many years. They brought their children to the farm and are now bringing their grandchildren. They picked out a tree for their home and one for the City of Kossuth.
“We have been doing this for years,” said Sherry, planting a kiss on her granddaughter’s cheek. “It is a tradition, and now we are starting this tradition for her (Amelia Kate).”
Jessica Matlock of Ripley said she first visited Pine Mountain Tree Farm six years ago with her sister-in-law. She has come back every year since. After careful consideration, Matlock took the tag she placed on one tree and moved it to one just behind it. Choosing just the right tree is important, she said. The one she decided on had just the right color variegation.
“I love the smell of the cedar and trees,” she said.
The farm began in the early 1980s after Marolt, a Mississippi State graduate, visited a tree farm. Returning with an idea brewing, he used 4 acres of his family’s property to create the farm. Alred recalled sitting in the car as a child waiting for people to come look for trees that first year.
“We would gather around the car heater, and when someone would come, we would help them and jump back into the car to get warm,” she said as she watched her own daughter, Adeline, play around the trees and on the porch of a cabin with her grandmother.
All these years later, the 4 acres are filled with trees in various stages of growth. Today, Pine Mountain sells an average of 400 choose-and-cut trees and 200 brought-in Fraser firs, which do not grow well in Mississippi. The trees in their rows in various shades of green are white pines, Leyland cypress, ‘Blue Ice’ Arizona cypress and ‘Carolina Sapphire’ Arizona cypress. Each year, the Marolt family plants between 400 and 500 trees. It takes most of the trees between five and seven years to reach to the right height for cutting, Marolt said. Throughout the year, he shapes each tree and sprays them to preserve their color and fertilize them. The average price of an 8-foot tree is about $85; the price increases with the 10-foot trees.
Customers begin tagging their trees in early to mid-November and usually pick them up the weekend of Thanksgiving or in early December. In addition to cut trees, Alred said there are some live trees that come in containers that families can plant once the holiday season is over.
The farm also offers wreath-making classes several times during the holiday season. The classes fill up quickly, Alred said. There’s more than a little pride Alred possesses for this acreage and the family business her parents have created. She watches and listens as geese honk in the pond just past the fields of trees, fluffy Lavender Orpington chickens cluck and scratch in their pens, and goats jump in and around their shelters. Alred understands this will one day be her legacy. Her love for the farm is evident, and she knows the traditions that have come with the land are important.
“This road you are standing on used to go to the cabin where my great-grandparents lived,” she said. “They would hook up a horse to a sled when it snowed and come right through here. “The memories of the farm are ones I will always cherish.”
Visit the Farm
Pine Mountain Christmas Tree Farm is located at 46 County Road 608 in Walnut, about 10 miles west of Corinth on Highway 72. To contact the farm by phone, call 662-643-3902. Find the farm on Facebook by searching “Pine Mountain Tree Farm.”