For a few years we grew Norway Spruce Christmas trees on our farm. In the summer I’d mow around them and in the fall, Dan would prune them. After eight years, they were ready to sell.
At first, we advertised the sale days, set up a table with hot cider and a cash box, and helped the customers. Once a man with two little girls came. When they arrived, one girl jumped out of the car and hid among the trees. She wanted to buy their tree from the “old people” they used to buy from!
Her dad coaxed her out explaining that they needed to take pictures of the various trees so their other sister, at home sick, could help pick out the tree. They walked around, taking pictures, and finally, with the approval of all three girls, a tree was picked.
Another year some folks knocked on our door well before Thanksgiving saying they wanted a tree. Their son was in the military, couldn’t get Christmas leave, so they were having Christmas then. After they picked a tree, we gave it to them as a contribution to the cause. As they were leaving the father handed us his business card saying that if we ever needed anything to call him. Looking at the card we saw the man was an FBI agent!
After a few years we put the trees on the honor system. We took a small saw, some twine, and a metal mailbox to the field and posted a sign explaining the process. The tree’s prices were tagged, customers would chop down their tree, use the twine to secure it, then take one of the self-addressed, stamped envelopes out of the mailbox. Once home with the tree, the customer would mail a check to us with the price of the tree. Dan counted out envelopes every morning and night. Depending on the number of envelopes left in the mailbox, we’d know how many trees we sold that day. It was our form of accounting. People seemed to like this idea.
After Christmas, Dan noticed we were short one envelope. Someone had taken one of our trees without paying! We were a little disappointed in mankind, but overall, the idea had worked well.
In February, one of our self-addressed, stamped envelopes arrived in our mailbox.
The tree’s cost plus $10 was enclosed along with a letter explaining how grateful the people were to find a tree farm that allowed one to buy a tree on time. They had been short on money and felt they couldn’t afford a tree and gifts for their kids that year. When they dropped by our farm and read our directions, they were able to give gifts and have a tree. Inadvertently, we’d given them just what they needed. As we read that letter, I think we were as grateful to the people who bought the tree as they were to us.
The last year we sold Christmas trees was a booming year and at the end of the season there weren’t many trees left. We didn’t plant any more trees. Our sons were grown, lived out of town and Christmas now often involved travel.
Like so many of our farm experiments, growing Christmas trees taught us a lot while blessing us. The military family’s early Christmas, the three girls’ family’s innovative way to involve all the children, and the joy of being able to help others in need were all greater gifts to us than our trees were to others. As Tiny Tim said so famously, “God bless us everyone!”
Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live on a farm in Heiskell.