Todd Sims, left, of Flowery Branch waits in his truck as Don Owen, middle, and his son Don, of Liberty Farm, load a Christmas tree on Saturday afternoon. Sims said he enjoys supporting small businesses like Liberty Farm. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
BUFORD — Kara and Mike Dowling recently moved from Lawrenceville to Buford, but their post-Thanksgiving Day tradition remains: They prefer to buy from a small business.
“We like the money to go to support something,” said Kara, who noted that it was Small Business Saturday, and also purchased farm fresh eggs from Liberty Farm in Buford.
Dowling said they prefer to purchase from Boy Scouts, churches and small businesses, like those owned by Don Owen, who along with his wife, Lynda, and three children, operate Liberty Farm. The nine acres of land off of Spout Springs Road was previously occupied as storage area for the Owen’s landscaping business.
But three years ago, they expanded to sell pumpkins, and then fresh eggs, chickens, hayrides and other fall activities.
The Owen family opened their Christmas tree business on Saturday, after several patrons came on Friday looking to purchase, and the first day had a steady flow of customers.
“I just hope that they get a family-friendly experience,” Lynda Owen said. “We have repeat customers who say, ‘We just love coming out here, it’s so peaceful.’”
The only employees in the business are family members, as Don and Lynda have three children, Don, David and Catherine, as “everybody pitches in and we have a good time,” Lynda said.
“We’re trying to create something here in the local community,” Don Owen said. “Where it’s become so urban, people have to drive so far, but when you come back here, it looks like you’ve come to a destination. It’s a beautiful property.”
The property appealed to Becky and Gary Pierce of Dacula, who looked for a tree to fit a limited space in their house. Decorating Christmas trees has long been a joy for Becky, who used to decorate two trees in her home.
“I keep them for about three weeks,” she said. “There’s nothing like a real tree. I have a thing about Christmas trees.”
Added Gary, “It’s a tradition that started with the kids, and we kept doing it every year. We both love the smell of them.”
Liberty Farm is scheduled to be open until Dec. 15, but last year they sold out before Dec. 1. This weekend and next weekend are expected to be the busiest of the season, Don Owen said.
One customer came after the Owens sold out last year, so she was among the first to buy this time.
Todd Sims of Flowery Branch had purchased eggs at Liberty Farm, but this is the first year his family bought a tree.
“You can’t beat the price and the personal service that they give,” said Sims, who added that the family planned to hang lights and ornaments on the tree later on Saturday.
The trees are typically nine or 10 feet tall Fraser firs that Don Owen recently bought from a farmer in Dillard.
“They get cut the day before I pick them up, because I want to make sure I get trees that are very fresh,” he said. “We wanted to make sure they all got put in their little dish, so they would stay green. Every morning for a week, they’ll keep sucking water.”
Owen plans to convert the property into an agritourism center to host school children wanting to visit the farm animals. But in the mean time, he’s helping customers start and continue Christmas traditions.