In Ohio, Christmas tree growers have not only mastered the art of growing beautiful trees – they’re also entertainers and event planners.
“Ohio is unique because we have a ton of small choose- and-cut farms,” says David Reese of Kaleidoscope Farms in Mt. Cory. “There are very few huge wholesale farms.”
These small growers strive to offer families a memorable experience year after year, providing more than just Christmas trees.
“They have petting zoos, horse drawn wagons – whatever brings families out there,” says Valerie Graham, executive director of the Ohio Christmas Tree Association, which has more than 220 members.
Reese calls it agri-entertainment.
“We have wagon rides through the farm, a nativity farm with baby animals to help people remember the real reason for Christmas, and to stop and ponder that,” he says. “We also have reindeer there for everybody to enjoy. My wife makes wreaths and decorations, and we have a gift shop.”
Debbie and Carl Yeagar of Storeyland Christmas Tree Farm continue their family’s 50-year tradition of growing Christmas trees and offer a quintessential U-pick Christmas tree experience. Visitors receive a hayride down to the fields, a hands-on tree-cutting experience and a crackling bonfire with decadent hot cocoa to bring the roses back to their cheeks.
“Because Storeyland has been selling Christmas trees since the 1960s, we have customers who have been coming for a few generations,” Debbie says.
Customers are certainly spoiled for choice, as many of these farms grow an array of varieties including Blue Spruce, Norway Spruce, White Spruce, Canaan Fir, Fraser Fir, Concolor Fir and White Pine.
“Canaan Fir and Fraser Fir are the most popular Christmas tree at Storeyland because they are nicely shaped trees, smell good and are easy to decorate with their softer needles,” Yeagar says. “A Canaan Fir grown at Storeyland was the Grand Champion Christmas Tree chosen at the 2015 Ohio State Fair.”
Each summer at the Ohio State Fair, growers from across the state bring choice trees to be judged by professional judges and fair attendees. The people’s choice award helps growers know what their customers prefer.
“There are so many different varieties, and with the people’s choice award, we’re taking a look at what the people look for,” Graham says. “Should we grow what the judges say is No. 1 or what the people want? We’re saying, ‘Let’s grow what the people want – that’s our customer.’”