Raised on a farm in Davie County, North Carolina, Sam developed a true love for the land that continued his whole life. After serving in WW II, his interest and education in agriculture led him to a career as an agricultural extension agent. It was fortuitous in several ways, as in doing so, he met his life partner, Margaret, a Home Demonstration teacher.
In 1952 Sam and Margaret moved to Avery County, NC where he served as extension agent for 21 years. During that time, he served as the president of the N.C. Association of Agricultural Extension Agents. His goal was to help small family farmers make their land as productive and profitable as possible and introduced and promoted the Fraser fir Christmas trees as a cash crop. He knew that the land and climate in Western NC was unique for the growth of Fraser firs and would provide a greater income to the local farmers than other crops. He continually worked to develop better production practices and to share these with members of the industry.
In 1955, Sam was one of the leaders to establish the North Carolina Christmas Tree Growers Cooperative Inc. now known as the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association (NCCTA). That same year he and several partners established one of the first Christmas tree plantations in Western North Carolina.
Sam was a crusader for the entire “Real Tree“ industry. He clearly recognized that the most competition for Fraser fir and other “real trees” was from the artificial tree. He served as the first chairman of the Fraser Fir Promotional committee, organized by the NCCTA. Because of his dedicated efforts and many others that followed him, Fraser fir has gone from an unrecognized tree in the Real Tree market in 1950’s to one of the most sought-after Christmas tree today.
Sam and Margaret started Cartner Christmas Tree Farm in the 1950’s converting from cattle to trees. The farm currently consists of more than 500 acres offering wholesale and choose and cut trees. While both Sam and Margaret shied away from the limelight preferring to focus on collaborative efforts and work behind the scenes, their achievements have not been overlooked.
Sam and Margaret were chosen as the Avery County Farm Family of the year in 1999. In 2002, Sam was inducted into the Western North Carolina Agricultural Hall of Fame. They were awarded the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association’s Outstanding Service Award in 2006.
In 2006 Sam was recognized by the National Christmas Tree Association with its Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2012 as Avery County Citizen of the Century.
Margaret passed away in 2007 and Sam in 2017. Both would have wanted us to thank all the wonderful people in their lives especially the farm workers and farm manager Ronnie Beam.
David, Jim and Sam Cartner strive hard to operate the Cartner Christmas Tree Farm according to the high standards set by their parents.