Family excursions make the holidays, so why not take the kids to harvest your own tree in the wild or at a real Christmas tree farm? We make it easy with this guide to the U-Pick Christmas tree farm nearest you and tips on how to select one.
Why Choose a Real Christmas Tree for the Holidays
Real Christmas trees is a trending thing. People love the scent of real trees in their house, enjoy having a bit of the “outdoors” inside, and love the thought that these trees come from Canada or the U.S. Plus, unlike plastic trees, live evergreens are fully recyclable after the holiday. Many towns recycle real Christmas trees as mulch or use them to bolster sand dunes after the holidays.
In fact, the U.S. Forestry Department encourages families to plan ahead for harvesting a tree from federal lands. Not only can you select a beautiful tree in the wilderness; you will know that you are helping keep the forest healthy by pruning out small trees. Beginning each October, Ranger Districts and National Forests issue Christmas Tree Harvest Permits on their website Recreation.gov. Sort listings by zip code, find a forest near you, check the opening dates of the harvest season and pay the fee (about $15 per tree.) Be sure to follow their safety tips before venturing out into the wild.
If you can’t get to a national forest, never fear. According to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), more than a quarter of the estimated 30 million trees harvested last year were cut at U-pick Christmas tree farms.
What are U Pick Christmas Tree Farms?
From Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, you can plan a road trip to one of the nearly 5,000 choose-and-cut real Christmas tree farms in the United States. (Some families find the the many farms in Canada closer.) The NCTA has a helpful website which refers you to real Christmas tree farms either by location (by your zip code) or by the type of tree required. At some of them, you’ll need to make advance reservations.
Plan a real Christmas tree farm outing to show kids that it’s an eco-friendly activity. Professional farmers replant three trees for every one that is cut. Your family will appreciate the help that local farmers offer and discover that real Christmas tree farms are the sustainable way to go.
If you’re planning a minication to a Christmas tree farm near you, keep in mind that supply is expected to be tight again this year. The NCTA advises customers to be flexible and consider different types of trees. They want every family to be delighted with their purchase.
A Connecticut U Cut Christmas Tree Farm
In the Northeast, try the 400-acre Jones Family Farms which just celebrated their 75th year of U-pick harvesting. The Homestead Farm, Valley Farm and Pumpkin Seed Hill Farm have joined the main one at 606 Walnut Tree Hill Road, Shelton, Connecticut 06484. The Jones Family runs a typical winter operation on their spread. According to Doug R., a Family Travel Forum member dad, most cut Christmas trees bought from stores in December have actually been harvested and frozen several months before.
That’s why, each year around Thanksgiving, he takes his family directly to Jones Farm. Spend the entire day among Balsam Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce, White Fir, Douglas Fir, and Angel White Pines so you can bring home a more recently cut, real Christmas tree which is sold by the foot.
“The kids love running around this beautiful New England style farm, and sometimes there’s a Santa sighting,” adds Doug R. “Our dog loves it, too.”
While you’re in the Northeast, head over to explore these New York City family-friendly holiday events.
What To Expect From Small Family Tree Farms
At the small family Christmas tree farms, expect balls of twine, a big Christmas gift shop and maybe some photo ops with Santa. Most are pet-welcoming if your dog is on a leash. Several sell snacks like homemade donuts and hot chocolate. Most have down-home advice about the best tree for your needs.
First tip for all newcomers: Measure your ceiling at home and bring the same tape measure to the farm!
In the Midwest, try B&J Evergreen, celebrating their 40th year of U-pick harvesting in Minnesota. Their “choose and cut” locations are in Princeton and Clear Lake. Families can choose to chop down Balsam Fir, Fraser Fir, White Pine or Blue Spruce trees to really personalize their holiday. Play with farm pets, jump on hay bales. Or, take a horse-drawn sleigh ride. If that’s too much of an outing, B&J has a more convenient option. Three tree lots with already harvested trees are in the Twin Cities region. B&J provides free twine, hand saws, bailing wire and friendly helpers.
Many Farms Run Big Christmas Tree Operations
Choose your favorite among 50,000 trees on 75 acres of farmland at the Richardson Adventure Farm (9407 Richardson Rd. near Spring Grove, IL), about an hour’s drive from Chicago. This family Christmas tree farm, founded in 1840, runs a choose and cut operation that sells more than 4,000 trees each year.
Tree varieties include Fraser Fir, Canaan Fir, Concolor Fir, Douglas Fir, Blue Spruce, White Pine and Scotch Pine. Of course, there’s coffee and hot chocolate, donuts, homemade treats, wreaths and more for sale as well.
“Some families have been coming here since our very first year,” said George Richardson, who works with his family. “It’s a real multi-generational tradition,” he adds. “People who came here as kids bring their own children now.”
Christmas Tree Farm Selection & Transport Tips
Follow these Tree Selection and Transport Tips from experienced tree-toting FTF families. Most of the U-Pick farms provides free twine and help getting any real Christmas tree you choose onto your car at any time.
1. Carefully select the size and shape tree that’s right for your home. As noted, you must measure the ceiling height in your home before heading out to the farm.
2. The Christmas tree farmer should supply a handsaw. Do bring work gloves so the kids can help you keep your real Christmas tree steady while sawing.
3. Ask the farmer to wrap or ‘net’ your tree for easy transport. Do bring your own plastic tarp to kneel on while sawing, to drag the tree to the car, and to protect your car roof or trunk from shedding needles and oozing sap. Depending on where you live, you may even find a farm who will deliver through Instacart or another service.
4. If your kids have allergies to pollen or tree sap, wash the tree outside thoroughly with a garden hose before bringing it indoors. Although allergy specialists say that evergreens produce very little pollen in winter, any real Christmas tree will collect pollen and dust.
5. If possible, trim the tree’s trunk again at home. Place it securely in water in a strong stand, away from any direct heat source. It may ‘drink’ several gallons worth in the first few days. Refill water every other day throughout the season, and your tree may last up to 10 weeks.
6. After the holidays, recycle it. Contact your local sanitation department about the recycling process in your town. In some areas they become mulch for local parks, in others, support for wind-blown sand dunes.
Finding A Christmas Tree Farm Near You
There are several ways to find a real Christmas tree farm convenient to you. Try asking the farmers at your local greenmarket; many have tree nurseries sharing farmland as an additional income source.
In some regions, such as northern California’s wine region, local growers have been supported in marketing their products for more than 30 years by the Sonoma County Farm Trails Organization. This site has a search function and maps showcasing farms which offer real Christmas trees.
Did you know that North Carolina produces more than 20% of the real Christmas trees in the U.S.? The North Carolina Fraser Fir has been chosen for the White House more than any other species. Check out the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association website for information on selection hours.
Tip! Start the Giving Season Early
The Richardson Farm in Illinois, along with many others, participates in Trees for Troops, which last year delivered about 15,000 free, fresh-cut, real Christmas trees to military families at 77 domestic military bases. We love give back gifts like this. First, purchase a tree for a local military base at a discount. Next, attach your own holiday greeting. Lastly, send it packed with holiday spirit.
Does your family have a real Christmas tree farm tradition? Let us know about your Christmas inspired travels in the comment field below!
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