Raburn and Shirley May started their 120-acre farm in Chunky in 1974 to raise cattle. But in 1980, they planted their first Virginia pine Christmas trees because, as Shirley observed, “Christmas trees don’t tear through fences like cows do.”
In 2001, Michael May purchased Lazy Acres Farm from his parents. Together with his wife, Cathy, and daughter, Mikayla, he and his family have made you-cut and precut trees part of a larger, interactive family holiday experience. May added their popular LIGHTS! showcase, a mile-long Christmas light extravaganza, in 2015.
“On Friday and Saturday nights, guests can take a wagon ride through the Christmas light display,” he says. “At Santa’s Workshop, kids can create an ornament and visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. There’s also Dancer’s Disco Deck, where kids can dance with costumed characters.”
During the Christmas season, on Sunday through Thursday nights, folks can drive through the display in their own vehicle. Last year, approximately 5,000 visitors enjoyed LIGHTS!
“The self-driving tour has worked well for people who are older, or people who might not be able to get out and walk around and see all the Christmas lights,” May says.
For May, a live Christmas tree is a family-oriented tradition.
“My father liked to say, ‘You wouldn’t eat a plastic turkey for Thanksgiving, so why would you have a plastic tree for Christmas?’” May says.
“Environmentally, it’s a much wiser choice,” he says. “It’s also a much nicer experience than crawling in the attic, dragging that thing down and straightening out all the limbs. An artificial tree’s typical life may be four to five years, then it goes into the landfill.”
May sells approximately 800 to 1,000 trees a year from his farm, directly to customers. Over time, he shifted from Virginia pines to Leland Cypress for their advantages of being pollen-free, growing more heartily than the pines and holding their needles better.
“The Lelands don’t lose a lot of needles, so that helped solve a problem for the consumers,” May says. “Virginia pines would lose a lot of needles in the fall and then what was left would go home with the customer and fall on their floor. Lelands are a lot easier to take care of, and they generally produce a much prettier tree.”
Lazy Acres now plants approximately 90% Leland Cypress and a 10% mix of Blue Ice and Carolina Sapphire.
“You can get 900 trees to an acre using a 7 x 7 spacing. We plant about 1,000 trees annually, utilizing about five acres,” May says.
When Michael and Cathy purchased the family farm in 2001, Michael worked in insurance.
“I thought, ‘Okay, I can do my insurance business and make a little extra money at Christmas, and everything would be great.’ It didn’t work out that way,” May says. “There’s a lot of work. It got to the point where I enjoyed being on the farm much more than I enjoyed being in a business suit.”
He soon realized in order to keep the farm viable, he would need to diversify.
“It’s a long time from one Christmas to the next Christmas,” May says. “We were looking for another source of income, and that’s when we added the pumpkin patch.”
In the month of October, upward of 50 groups participate in field trips through the farm’s 6-acre pumpkin patch.
Lazy Acres also offers Breakfast with the Bunny at Easter and hosts weddings on their beautiful grounds. Growing wisely and watching current trends in agritourism has proven advantageous.
“I think agritourism is a savior for a lot of smaller family farms,” May says. “Without adding the pumpkin patch, it would be very hard for me to continue. Adding it really saved our farm. If I had to sell just Christmas trees, I would not be in business. Plus, agritourism is downright fun.”
Even with all the farm has to offer, it’s clear that Christmas is at the heart of May’s work.
“Where else can you go and spend the day, and cut down your tree, and go see an awesome Christmas light show, then go home and put your tree up?” May says. “That’s a pretty unique experience.”
Lazy Acres Farm
596 Lazy Acres Rd., Chunky, MS 39323
Friday – 1 to 6 p.m.
Saturday – 10 to 8 p.m.
Sunday – 1 to 6 p.m.
Closed Monday through Thursday