Christmas trees from Sorghum Mill Tree Farm
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas as Sorghum Mill Tree Farm prepares to open up for the holiday season. The farm has been in business for a successful 40 years.
Owner John Knight has eight fields in East Edmond where he grows thousands of cypress and pine trees, and landscaping trees. He became interested in trees at an early age since his father was an arborist, but it was while he was sitting in an airport reading a magazine about a man in Mexico growing Christmas trees in arid climates that sparked the idea of growing Christmas trees in Oklahoma.
“A bell went off in my head, and I thought I could do that in Oklahoma,” remembers Knight. “It was about two years later that I planted my first Christmas trees, and we’ve been going ever since.”
It is not an easy business growing evergreen trees in Oklahoma, something that completely goes against nature.
“This is not a climate that’s conducive for them,” said Knight. “We have to fertilize because the soil is not right, and we have tremendous growth of weeds and grass in Oklahoma. In other areas at a higher elevation, you don’t have that. We have total irrigation. Every tree has its own little waterspout and without that, we couldn’t do this.”
For the first 10-15 years, he nearly quit multiple times after hailstorms, gopher problems, and drought seasons wiped out full crops.
“It’s the fortitude; my upbringing just keeps me going,” said Knight. Just when he thinks he’s not going to do this anymore, the following year he cleans up the fields and starts over. He wishes his dad could see the 30,000-40,000 Christmas trees growing on his fields today.
They don’t start from seed but rather from seedlings, and they’re about one year old when they plant them in the ground. It takes three to four years to grow into full-size Christmas trees.
Knight said that this year’s crop is excellent, but it is a miracle. “Even with the bad weather, and we had some really bad weather, our crop looks good, maybe better than it’s ever looked.”
Sorghum Mills employs around 70 people during the peak season to service customers and process as many as 600 trees a day. Knight and his staff work hard at providing an exceptional product for their new and repeat customers.
“We strive to provide a very good Christmas tree, and I think we provide the best one in this part of the country,” boasts Knight.
Customers are provided complete service that includes assisting with the harvest, transporting, tree cleaning, bailing, and properly loading and securing the tree to their vehicles. They also offer refreshments of hot chocolate, apple cider, coffee, and candy canes.
Knight’s favorite things about his work are being outside and providing a product that helps people make an enjoyable holiday. “One of the driving factors that motivates me is the children, watching them run through the trees and hear their little voices.”
Knight’s heart for children extends beyond seeing their holiday joy and has a long history of supporting two charities. He has served on the board of directors of the J.D. McCarty Center for children with developmental disabilities and supports My Heart’s Appeal, Inc., an organization that is meeting the special education and training needs of people with disabilities in Liberia, West Africa.
Knight keeps very busy. “I went through a period when I was a young man that I was bored, and I told myself if I ever got away from that feeling, I’m never experiencing that again, and I haven’t,” he remembers. Not only does he grow and sell Christmas and landscaping trees, but he also grows blackberries and has an investment firm.
“I have so much on my plate all the time, there’s no time to get bored,” said Knight.
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About Tina Evans
Tina Evans is a leadership coach and consultant. As a certified 5 Voices and 100X Leader guide, Tina is passionate about helping leaders build organizations where everyone is empowered to bring their best and increase overall performance. She is a former senior leader for both local and statewide organizations and owns Tina Evans Coaching, LLC. She holds degrees in psychology and public relations and is certified in nonprofit management.