Trees farms provide traditional holiday cheer: Green for growers
August 27, 2008 · Updated 4:19 PM
MARYSVILLE Curt McNelley is fully aware he could have had a much easier time of it. But, in this case, easier doesnt equal as much fun. Or as much of a tradition.
Every year, instead of heading for a big box store or a corner lot and picking up a pre-cut, ready-to-roll Christmas tree, McNelley points himself in the direction of Patersons Lazy Acres Tree Farm in Smokey Point.
Its just more personal, McNelley said of cutting down his own tree.
Last week, in fairly brisk, but at least dry weather, McNelley spent about an hour wandering around the rows at Patersons looking for the perfect greenery to grace his living room.
Weve been coming out for, I dont know how many years, McNelley said. He used to bring his children with him on the annual trip, but those children now have children themselves and this year McNelley was on his own. He did spend plenty of time consulting with this wife via cell phone before putting saw to fresh tree.
At Farmer Browns Tree Farm in Arlington, customer Michael Cascade had a story very similar to that of McNelley. Hes come to the tree lot for at least 10 years and said he wouldnt think about not cutting down his own tree.
It just wouldnt be the same, Cascade said.
For him, he added, the annual trip to Farmer Browns marks the real start of his personal holiday season.
Patersons and Browns are just two of numerous cut-your-own Christmas tree farms in Snohomish County. In the case of Patersons, Cheryl Paterson said her father started the business as a retirement project about 29 years ago. The family tried raising cattle on their property for a while, but Christmas trees now are Cheryl Patersons sole undertaking.
The thing about trees is, they dont run through fences, she said.
Both Patersons and Browns offer numerous types of fir trees, along with Norway spruces. Browns also has Blue spruces.
According to Paterson, aroma is a key factor in deciding the popularity of specific types of trees. That puts the Grand fir at the top of the charts outdistancing the Douglas fir, which Paterson said was by far the top tree for many years.
According to Brown, Noble firs are the trees most often departing his farm. Why?
Because theyre the ones people want to buy, he quipped.
Brown quickly added he attributes the popularity of Nobles to their shape, and just as importantly, their sturdy branches.
Though he almost certainly didnt know it, over at Patersons, Joshua Shetler, Jr., age 6, picked out a Noble fir for his family. Joshua was at the farm with dad Joshua Sr., and mom, Stacy. Joshua Sr., said this was the first year he and his family decided to cut down their own tree. Stacy said the trio had looked at pre-cut trees, but couldnt find one they liked. Letting Joshua Jr., make the final selection just seemed like the natural thing to do.
Im definitely thinking about making it a tradition, dad said about returning to the farm next year.
Tradition actually is a word that seems to come up a lot at tree farms and both Paterson and Brown believe it is a key to their business.
Ive had families come back 10, 15 years in a row, he said, adding he knows of at least a few families who now have three generations visiting the farm every holiday.
Paterson talked about how the freshness of newly cut trees keeps customers coming back.
They just last longer, they just look better, she said, adding its usually impossible to know how long a pre-cut tree has been sitting around waiting for someone to take it home. She said most commercial Christmas tree harvesting is done in early November.
Like Patersons father, Brown started his farm as a retirement project. A former Boeing employee, he put his first tree in the ground over 20 years ago. Nowadays, hes stepped back somewhat from trees as well as planes.
I kind of retired from all this, Brown said. I just sort of manage things from my easy chair. Thats relatively simple, as Browns rows of trees begin just 100 yards or so from his front porch. Probably somewhat predictably, Paterson also makes her home on her farm.
According to Paterson, growing Christmas trees isnt difficult, but it does take time. A Douglas fir can take seven years to reach a good, saleable height of about six feet. A Grand fir can take 10 years to reach the six-foot mark, while Noble firs are among the slowest growing of all.
Both Brown and Paterson said good trimming is an absolute necessity in producing an attractive Christmas tree. Brown said the tops of the trees need special attention and workers begin shaping his crops when they reach about three feet tall.
You start cutting them then, so theyll grow into a Christmas tree year after year, Brown said, adding trimming the branches on his 32 acres takes at least two months a year.
For more information, such as hours and days of operations for Patersons, call 360-652-7661. For Farmer Brown, 360-659-6686. For a complete listing of area trees farms and other information about trees, go to www.nwtrees.com.