A middle Tennessee man hopes to bring families in need some holiday cheer by giving away free Christmas trees.
For nearly three decades, Oralee Meyers has tended a 22-acre farm full of cedars of all sizes in Readyville, about 14 miles east of Murfreesboro.
Six years ago, he turned the cedars into Christmas joy after overhearing a conversation in a grocery store.
“She was telling a lady in front of her that she wasn't going to get to have a tree that year because they couldn't afford one,” Meyers recalled. “I tapped her on the shoulder and I said, 'No, no, no. You're going to have a tree this year.'”
Since then, Meyers has given away hundreds of trees to families and individuals in need, allowing them to pick and even chop their own trees.
“A lot of people can't afford to buy a tree. They're awfully expensive sometimes,” he explained. “Cedar trees make really good Christmas trees. I have four different varieties of cedar trees out here, so, you know, there's the kind that are spacious, kind that are dense.”
Currently, the state Department of Agriculture is pushing for Tennesseans to buy fresh, local trees, because they can be recycled and don't require a large fleet of transport.
Meyers' farm falls in line with the department's recommendations, but he does little to advertise.
His greater purpose is merely to help those in need, but not all those who come to Meyers' farm are in need.
“I've had several people come out and say, 'Look, I can totally afford to buy a tree. I'd like to make a donation to help you, you know, pay for your expenses of doing this,'” Meyers said.
Covering expenses isn't always easy. Meyers covers the cost to maintain the necessary lawn equipment and transportation for the farm. In the early years of his tree giveaway, money was tight. While things have gotten better, he often reflects on the hard times.
“I was there, and I lost everything I had. But, you know, sometimes that's for a purpose. Sometimes it brings you back to your roots,” he said.
He added, “The experience of these families doing this, it's just been great.”
Meyers estimates there are as many at 1,500 trees left on his farm. He's willing to give them all away in the spirit of Christmas.
The giveaway at Meyers' farm starts Saturday, December 7, and runs through December 22. To scheduled an appointment, call (615) 202-7879.