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Cut-your-own Christmas tree farms enter peak season

OCONTO—The best time to chop a Christmas tree is now.

Megan Yeska, who owns Whispering Pines, a Christmas tree farm, with her husband, Randy, and in-laws in Oconto, said it’s peak season.

“This last weekend and the next weekend are our busiest weekends,” she said.

As people tend to shop earlier for presents, they shop earlier for Christmas trees, too. Whispering Pines was one of the first large-scale Christmas tree farms that opened in the area this year, with the other big ones opening after Thanksgiving.

Donna Buechler, owner of Elmcrest Acres, said they package up some trees for Chicago around early November, but that’s just to get them shipped in time for end-of-month sales, which happen earlier and earlier. Her dad, now deceased, used to leave for the Windy City every year on Dec. 12 and sell trees until Christmas Eve. However, now her husband leaves earlier to sell in time for Thanksgiving. A few years ago, he sold out on Dec. 12, the same day her dad used to begin selling, she said.

With all the early cutting, some may wonder how trees last until Christmas. The consensus is that the trees should live as long as they’re appropriately handled and watered.

“It doesn’t necessarily matter how early you put up your tree,” Buechler said. “It has to have a fresh cut. If it sits for a couple of days, the sap wants to seal the bottom off.”

If the sap seals the bottom of the tree off, it can’t drink any water and will dry out. The tree will continue to thrive if a fresh cut is made before it’s placed in water. If the tree sits for longer than 24 hours after being cut, saw off a couple of inches to ensure long life.

“If you buy it from a Christmas tree lot, you should really cut it again,” she said.

The most important thing in keeping a tree alive is never letting it run dry. Buechler said that if you keep water in the bottom, the tree should stay alive. Check the water twice a day initially, as it will drink a lot at first.

Buechler said her dad started selling Christmas trees in 1945, the beginnings of Elmcrest Acres, a farm with more than 4,000 Christmas trees in Daggett. The location, a frequent host to birthday parties, weddings and reunions, sells trees for three weekends, ending on Dec. 12. Any more and they’d have to cut into the stock they’re growing for next year, she said.

“We kind of have it down to a science,” Buechler said.

Yeska said it takes nine to 10 years to grow its trees from seedlings to living-room-ready decorations. They sell the most of balsam trees on their 100,000-tree location, but also have white pine and Frasier fir.

“The Frasier fir is the Cadillac of Christmas trees in our area,” she said, mentioning it’s more expensive because of its softer needles. Balsam is native to the area and more fragrant, however.

When picking the tree, consider the shape and size of the tree stand.

“One of the main things is for people to get a tree stand that’s right for their tree,” she said. “You want to make sure the base of the tree stand will support how tall your tree is. Make sure it’s snug inside that tree stand.”

Securing the tree is often an afterthought but a hassle if it’s not the right one.

“We have a tendency to forget the physics of holding your tree upright,” she said.

She said the shop is abundantly busy during the weekends, and she sees some families come during the week when the farm usually spends time shaking and baling trees. The shop and the choose-and-cut tree farm are open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t necessarily want to be a part of the big crowd,” Yeska said. “A lot of times, they come during the week when it’s more intimate.”

The gift shop closes on Dec. 21 and slows down about mid-December, with a trickle of customers still visiting their shop for ornaments and gifts.

The farm has four to six full-time employees around Christmastime, with women making wreaths and “kissing balls,” which they’ve made 250 of this year. She and her husband bought the farm with Dan and Sharon Yeska and Ken and Carolann Yeska in 2019 from the Vander Velden family.

“This farm would not go around if it weren’t for the wonderful people we have working with us here,” she said, taking the time to mention a particular team member, Sue, by name. “They’re the lifeblood of this place.”

It’s a culture of camaraderie and compassion—the perfect recipe for Christmas spirit.

“We sell trees, but we really focus on helping families create and develop traditions,” she said.

Those wishing to shop for Christmas trees this weekend are not too late. Listed below are area Christmas tree farms where people can cut their own trees.

Whispering Pines

Choose-and-cut Christmas trees (balsam, Frasier fir and white pine), precut Christmas trees, wreaths, garland, boughs and holiday shop. Tractor rides, photos with Santa, free hot chocolate and food for sale on weekends. “Booyah Saturday” this weekend with Delta Historical Society. Check, cash and cards accepted.

Hours: Open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Santa photos on Dec. 3-4, Dec. 10-11 and 17 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Location: 3694 Airport Road, Oconto

Price: Choose-and-cut trees $39-$69 with price based on variety. Precut options starting at $3.95.

Contact: (920) 835-8733

Website: https://www.whisperingpinestreefarm.com/

Elmcrest Acres

Christmas trees have been a part of their family since 1945. The farm opens on the next two weekends for “Choose & Cut” sessions, with free apple cider and cookies. Crafts, wreaths and other baked goods for sale. “Hot Cocoa With Mrs. Claus” on Saturday, Dec. 3 from 4:30-5:30 p.m. Register here: https://bit.ly/CocoaClaus. Wreath class on Sunday, Dec. 4 at 5 p.m.

Hours: Dec. 4-5 and December 11-12 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Location: W2144 No. 29 Road, Daggett

Price: $40

Contact: (906) 424-0688

Website: elmcrestacres.com

Olson’s Evergreens

What: Cut-your-own spruce trees and precut balsam and spruce, plus wreaths available at this farm, celebrating 20 years. Gift shop offers crafts and other Christmas decorations.

Hours: 12-5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekends

Location: N1930 S-1 Lane, Menominee

Price: Cut-your-own spruce is $40, precut balsam and spruce are $35-$100

Contact: (906) 290-1407

Website: https://www.facebook.com/people/Olsons-Evergreens/100057751325939/

Aman’s Christmas Tree Farm

What: Balsam or spruce cut-your-own or pre-cut trees, with boughs and wreaths available.

Hours: 9 a.m.—dusk

Location: W6832 No. 5 Road, Menominee

Price: $22 on any size of cut-your-own. Precut prices vary.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/groups/881757381992992

North Countree Christmas Inc.

What: A large selection of balsam and Frasier fir Christmas trees. They will provide hand saws, bailing, tie-down service and a tree disposal bag. Ornaments, homemade pots and outdoor arrangements are available. Dogs on leashes are welcome. Cash or check accepted, with an ATM on site.

Hours: 8 a.m.—dusk, seven days a week

Location: N10965 Schlies Road, Wausaukee

Price: Balsam are $45 and Frasier fir are $55 up to 8 feet tall. Taller trees will be $10 per additional foot.

Contact: (715) 856-5784

Website: northcountree.com

Erin Noha can be reached by email at enoha@eagleherald.com


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