by Heather Allmendinger | Photos by Jamison Mosley
Randy Motley can prove that childhood memories last a lifetime. After 40 years of operating his choose-and-cut tree farm, he’s had a hand in creating a nostalgic holiday tradition reminiscent to many central Arkansans. “I meet people who came to our farm as a kid 25 years ago and are now bringing their kids. That proves to me that memories truly last,” Motley says.
Motley’s Tree Farm has grown over the years from a quiet field of trees and a pay booth to a festive wonderland of holiday activities for the whole family. The farm now bustles with pig races, a hayride, farm petting zoo, outdoor burger grill and a Christmas store that offers beautiful live wreaths and centerpieces made of fresh greenery, more than 20 flavors of homemade fudge, ornaments and candles.
“We were the lemonade stand of Christmas trees back then,” Motley jokes. “We’ve embraced the agritourism of what we do and have made it an experience.” Of course, the chance to choose and cut your own tree is still a highlight. The process is easy. Hop on the farm’s tractor wagon for a fun ride out to the field, choose and cut the perfect tree with tools provided by the farm, then the wagon will haul you and your tree in from the field. While your woody perennial is prepped and loaded up for the ride home, enjoy a warm, delicious cup of complimentary hot chocolate. The hardest part is choosing the right piece of timber among so many options. Motley’s Tree Farm grows more than 8,000 beautiful trees of the soft-needled Leyland Cypress and Carolina Sapphire varieties, at any given time and carefully nurtures them year-round to offer the best selection of Christmas trees in Arkansas. It’s no wonder Motley’s Tree Farm landed on Southern Living’s list of “The South’s Best Christmas Tree Farms.”
“Our customers have come to appreciate the level of quality we offer, and they expect that from us every year,” Motley says.
If you’d rather not try your hand at cutting your own tree, Motley’s also offers a fine selection of pre-cut Fraser firs. The Fraser fir’s pleasant fragrance, dark green and brushed silver coloring and sturdy shape are sought-after characteristics, making it one of our nation’s most popular Christmas tree species. Each year, Motley travels to the hills of North Carolina to hand choose the Fraser firs that, once mature, will be delivered to his farm for the Christmas season. After they arrive, he grooms and properly displays them with their trunks submerged in a large vat of water to keep them farm-fresh, which is something big box stores and parking lot tree stands can’t do with limited space. Before a pre-cut Fraser fir leaves Motley’s Tree Farm, the trunk is trimmed to extend the tree’s longevity. “You can’t get any fresher than a tree cut straight from the farm. Buying one of our premium pre-cut Fraser firs that’s been well-maintained is the next best thing,” says Motley. “I pick them myself, and I choose them strictly on their quality.”
If you prefer to put up your tree closer to Christmas day, he recommends making a visit early in the season to pre-pick and tag your tree. The tree will remain reserved and in its place until you return. “You can come back any time — no matter how late in the season — to cut it down,” he notes. This is a great option considering 60 percent of Motley’s trees are sold over the first two weekends following Thanksgiving.
The season for selling trees may be short — roughly only three weeks — but the work is year-round and hard, particularly during the four peak months leading to and including the holiday season. An exhausting 16-hour day goes by faster when you’re surrounded by a good team. Motley’s mother and wife have been involved from the start, along with his father who passed away last year. His son, Michael, and daughter, Racheal, jumped in as soon as they were old enough and able. “I really love my business. This is my life and my real job, and I love it,” Motley humbly says. For a family that helps yield such a memorable holiday tradition for others, the Motleys have a pretty unique tradition of their own — selling that perfect Christmas tree to each family who visits. After your visit, you’ll probably feel like a part of the Motley family, too.
Randy Motley’s Holiday Favorites:
Christmas Movie: A Christmas Story.
Christmas Song: Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”
Christmas Tree Topper: A star.
Hot Chocolate or Coffee: Hot chocolate! We give away about 100 gallons of free hot chocolate every year!
Holiday Dessert: Homemade cherry pie with a lattice crust top — it’s what my mom makes.
Fudge Flavor(s) Sold in the gift shop: Lemon Cheesecake, Cappuccino and Turtle Cheesecake.
Farm Activity: Welcoming school groups onto the farm. Between the pumpkin patch and Christmas tree farm, we host around 6,000 school kids per year.
Post-season Vacation Spot: We stay right here and catch up on sleep!
Motley’s Tree Farm
13724 Sandy Ann Drive, Little Rock, AR 72206
Open Nov. 23 – Dec.15th
Tue-Fri: 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Sat-Sun: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Closed on Thanksgiving Day