As Christmas nears, Cedar Grove tree farm owners await late rush
As the shopping days before Christmas slowly slip away, these are busy times at Greenview Tree Farm at W4266 Hwy. D, Cedar Grove.
Well, that is unless the weather intervenes. It may come as a surprise, but there are times when it is too chilly to think much about Christmas decorations.
“It has been really cold, which cuts into our sales a lot,” said Diane Garrison, who has owned the sprawling Christmas tree farm with her husband Paul since 1985. The couple, who still live in Illinois, began selling trees at the farm in 1992.
“Our busiest time is the weekends, but when it is bitter cold — like it has been most weekends this month — families are not so willing to bring their little ones to go out and cut down a tree,” Garrison said.
Still, she said, the tree farm has been selling more than 100 trees each weekend day leading up to Christmas.
The 80-acre property has more than 35,000 trees covering most of the evergreen varieties.
The selection includes long-needled Scotch and white pines, and short-needled spruce and Colorado blue spruce, as well as balsam, Douglas, concolor and Fraser firs.
Prices are based on the variety of tree, not the size, and range from $20 to $58. For many, its a small price to pay for the excitement of heading off onto the property and cutting down just the right tree.
On weekends, a wagon is available to get tree shoppers to the remote corners of the property and then haul the selected tree back to the parking lot.
That cut-your-own experience is reflected in the business’ motto — “Make your own memories.”
Each harvested tree is shaken to remove the loose needles and debris, then netted for easier transporting.
A selection of pre-cut trees is available at the start of the Christmas tree season, but they sell out pretty fast.
Garrison said about 60% of tree sales are fir trees, favored by customers because they are lighter and aromatic. The pines, she said, grow quickly and can become unwieldy.
The Fraser fir is the farm’s high-end tree and carries the highest price, but for good reason.
“Frasers are beautiful trees, but they are native to the mountains of North Carolina, not Wisconsin. They take a lot of care to get through the first couple of years,” Garrison said.
She said tree farmers have to take a long-range view when formulating a business plan.
“Two years ago, when the area was suffering from that drought, we lost every new tree that was planted — about 3,000 trees,” Garrison said.
“That is something farms have to deal with all the time, but trees are not like corn. You can’t replant a crop. You just have to wait until next year.”
It takes about seven years for a seedling to grow to the point it is a marketable Christmas tree.
November and December days are filled with running the tree lot, but operating the 80-acre farm is much more than a two-month business.
Garrison said planting is done in early spring, followed by the non-stop chore of mowing the grass and trimming branches to make the trees more pleasing in appearance. Burlapped landscaping trees are also sold during the growing season.
During the holiday season, Garrison spends a lot of her time making mixed-green wreaths and garlands from harvested tree boughs.
A holiday gift shop featuring tree stands, ornaments, decorations and even tree disposal bags in the farm’s 100-year-old old fieldstone barn.
Customers prone to procrastination should be warned that last-minute tree purchases are not an option at Greenview.
“We close Dec. 23, take a break to pack up everything and then head off to Florida in February,” Garrison said.
Despite the chill, she said, it is rewarding to be a part of so many family traditions for the season.
“We are so busy around the holidays we don’t get much time to talk with customers, but there are a lot of familiar faces,” Garrison said.
“I remember a woman who came to get a tree when she was pregnant. Now she comes back, and her children are in college.”
Garrison said most of her customers seemed filled with holiday cheer, but there are always exceptions.
She recalled a run-in with a customer who had marked a tree he intended to cut down, only to discover when he returned to the farm that someone else had beaten him to the tree.
“He was really angry, but the fact is we don’t have ‘tree police’ to keep people from cutting down trees,” Garrison said.
“When he kept complaining, another customer said the same thing had happened to her and her family but they ended up finding an even better tree.”
Garrison said she already has a balsam waiting at her home in Illinois — but it isn’t decorated.
Image Information: DIANE HARRISON, OWNER of Greenview Tree Farm on Highway D in Cedar Grove, checked pre-cut Christmas trees in front of the fieldstone barn. A colorful assortment of ornaments and holiday decorations (left) awaits inside the holiday gift shop. Photo by Mark Jaeger