Trees go fast in annual sale

Published 6:00 am Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s annual tree saleturned into a shopping frenzy Thursday morning when hundreds ofLincoln County gardeners and homeowners bought up the entireinventory of 5,000 trees in one hour.

The event’s administrators – who described the crowd ascontaining somewhere between “a lot” and “a bunch” of shoppers -were taken aback by the speed of the sale, the shortest-runningevent to date.

The bare-root saplings were sold at a rate of almost 84 perminute. The sale started at 7:30 a.m. and by 8:30 a.m., all thatremained were trashcans full of thick brown water where the treeswere stored.

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“We have been here ’till dinner time before,” said Mike Warren,chairman of the Lincoln County Soil and Water ConservationCommission. “We sold out of every variety but three or four.”

Warren said the speed of this year’s sale was due to increasedpublicity and momentum gained from previous sales. The fact thatmost trees sold for $1, with the most expensive going for $5,didn’t hurt matters either, he said.

“They get nice looking trees at not-that-expensive prices,”Warren said. “All we try to do is get our money back for it. We didreal good, we just ran out of too many trees!”

Warren said the types of trees sold each year are determined byreviewing the success of different species at the previous year’ssale.

“Sometimes we guess right, sometimes wrong – this year I thinkwe were pretty close,” said Homer Richardson, a local MasterGardener who works the tree sale every year. “Part of it is justspring fever. You get some decent weather, the grass gets a littlegreener and you feel the need to get out.”

Richardson’s estimation was fairly accurate. The throng ofshoppers waited in long lines to pick out their trees, equally longlines to pay, but found no obstacles as they burst out the doorwith their take.

“I’m gonna plant these suckers,” said Brookhaven’s Billy Dodd,grinning as he held up 16 saplings. “I bought 10 last year, andthis is probably going to finish it up. I’m going to add to myfruit tree row.

Brookhaven’s Connie Mack Douglas struggled out of the NationalGuard Armory, where the tree sale was held, with 21 trees weighinghim down.

“I’m helping my son – he just bought a home and he wants toplant these in his yard,” he said. “It really is a bargain. You canbuy five or six trees for the price of one.”

Ricky Byers only bought four trees at the sale, but each has apurpose for his home in Brookhaven.

“I’ve got two Mississippi pecan trees and two river birch – I’mgoing to try to get a little shade around my house because thebirches are fast growing, and I like pecans,” he said. “I’m alsogoing to try to bring in the birds. We like to watch thebirds.”

Ruth’s Pat Ard walked out of the tree sale with 50 free pinesaplings, which he plans to use to patch a hurricane-sized hole inhis property.

“Katrina messed the timber up, so I’m going to put these out,”he said. “I’m also going to put out some hardwood to help the gameout.”

Patti Alderman left the sale with a bundle of fruit trees almostbigger than she. Those in line behind her kept to a safe distancefrom the long stems.

“I’m trying to start me a fruit orchard,” she said. “I come tothe tree sale every year and I plant a few fruit trees every year.I just about bought all the fruit trees they had.”

Some tree shoppers are just shopping for the sake of shopping.Wesson’s Renee Cotton said deer eat up her tree sale purchasesevery year, but she soldiers on, savoring the fight to the front ofthe line.

“I’m gonna plant them so the deer can eat them up, then I’llcome back next year and get some more – it’s a ritual,” she said.”I like getting in that sale line. It’s a struggle to get up to thefront. If they were $10, I’d do something else, but I can’t miss asale.”

Cotton even judged her success in terms of shopping. She walkedaway with 15 trees, but said a woman in line before her bought thelast two of a particular species she wanted.

“I lost this year,” she said.