Many may correlate Christmas trees with the holiday season and related traditions of venturing out to find the perfect tree to bring home. For local plantation owners, Christmas trees are a way of life – in some cases, spanning several decades.
While some tree farms focus on the local market – catering to the holiday traditions of local residents – others are strictly wholesale, harvesting and distributing their trees all over the Midwest, and for some, all over the country.
John and Rosalyn Hagedorn of Smiling John’s Wreaths and Christmas Trees located on Center Road in the Town of Pine River, have made their living in the Christmas tree industry since 1982.
“We have always enjoyed the outdoors and Christmas trees have always played an important part in our Christmas traditions,” Rosalyn explains of the couple’s attraction to the industry. “We enjoy Christmas trees so much we decided to start growing our own.”
The family’s first seedlings went into the ground in the spring of 1982 and by 1987, they had begun selling products to local residents with their slogan “U cut, we cut.”
The Hagedorn’s harvest four different species of trees, including Balsam, Frazier fir, Canaan fir and Scotch Pine; with Frazier Fir and Scotch Pine being the most popular.
While the Hagedorn’s sales season kicks off the day after Thanksgiving and runs through mid-December, their work is far from done at season’s end.
“There is a lot of time and work involved in growing trees,” Rosalyn adds.
When spring rolls around, the couple set about planting new trees, followed by days of careful trimming and manicuring throughout the late spring and summer months. Fertilization, pest and weed control continues during summer and when fall arrives, preparations begin once again for the harvest and sales season.
While the Hagedorn’s focus on the local demand for trees, the Black family focuses strictly on wholesale.
David Black Jr., owner of High Ground Tree Farm on CTH G, explains there is always work to be done on the plantation, even in the winter months.
“October through December is our busiest time of year as that when we harvest our trees and begin transporting,” he says.
During that time, the Black’s trees are shipped all over the Midwest; as far west as the Dakotas and as far south as Missouri. Founded by David’s father, David Black Sr., in 1969, the family business has always been strictly wholesale. From using both pick-up truck and 5th wheel trailers driven by David Sr. to contracting with local transportation companies, the Blacks own and operate three retail locations in the greater Chicago area in the winter months. Their Midwestern customers range from small, privately owned nurseries to garden centers and other retail locations.
Then when the harvest and distribution season has passed, the Blacks and their seasonal employees spend the winter months maintaining equipment and preparing for the spring planting season. When spring arrives, the crew returns to the 350-acre plantation comprised of over 250,000 tress of various species. Planting resumes in the spring, followed by trimming, herbicide and pesticide treatments in the summer. The farm begins taking pre-harvest orders mid-summer while mowing operations begin in September. Then in October, it’s once again harvest-time.
With over 20 farms across the county, statistics indicate Christmas tree farming certainly is an industry of note in Lincoln County.
According to information provided by the UW-Extension Office of the USDA Agriculture Census, as of 2012, Lincoln County ranked second in the state and 23rd in the nation with total tree farm acreage (1,894), second behind Jackson County (4,846). Lincoln County led the state in overall tree production with nearly 60,000 trees cut (58,938).