Farmer Bill Jacobs still tears up about the time his family gave a tree to a woman who came to them under tough financial times one Christmas.
“The next year she came back and said, ‘I want to do for someone else what you did for me,’” says Bill, who owns Owasso Christmas Tree and Berry Farm with his wife, Paula. “We have several people gift trees every year.”
Paula calls their U-pick farm venture near Owasso a “happy business.” “It’s a good way to meet people with very good hearts in our community,” she says.
The Jacobs family takes customer experience and tradition as seriously as the productivity and quality of their evergreens, blackberries and blueberries.
Their adoption of an innovative rotating trellis system improves yield and picking conditions for blackberries. The family uniquely grows blueberry plants in containers for easier picking and better control of the plant’s pH demands. They operate drip irrigation on every acre, whether trees or berries. And they shear evergreens twice yearly to create a shape worth trimming for the holiday season.
“It’s just amazing how many trees we sell,” Bill says. “The people that started with us the first year we sold – now their kids are coming and grandkids are coming. We have a tradition that has been going on for 36 years.”
The Family Farm Flourishes
The Jacobs family sells nearly 6,000 precut and cut-your-own Christmas trees in November and December. They sell an average of 17,000 pounds of U-pick and previously picked blackberries and blueberries in the summer. The couple’s son, daughter, son-in- law, daughter-in-law and grandkids work on the farm seasonally, as do about 45 employees.
Bill and Paula bought the farm and planted trees on it in 1981 as a way to provide for themselves and their retirement one day.
“We started selling out of a two-stall garage in front of our house,” Paula says. “The roof leaked and the garage had no heat and no restrooms, so I never knew who might be in my house using the restroom.”
Today, a separate building houses a proper gift shop and working fireplace that adds to the holiday mood. They round out their Christmastime experiences with free hot cider, candy canes and hayrides.
“My favorite parts are mostly the children, the families that come, the memories they make and watching them come back with their children,” Paula says. “We have so many friends that come in that I almost don’t have time to watch the gift shop.”
Shaping Family Traditions
The family sells three varieties of trees grown on the farm. They also sell seven varieties of precut trees from Oregon and North Carolina, including the popular short-needle firs unsuitable for growth in Oklahoma’s climate. They display these precut trees in a barn with misters to keep them moist and fresh.
On their own land, Bill and Paula manage 11 acres of trees in six-year rotations, with about 13,000 trees of various ages growing at any one time. It takes about five years to produce a tree of marketable height.
“Christmastime is a happy experience, and coming to rural America is another happy experience that they enjoy,” Bill says. “When we first started in the berry business, our customers were older people who wanted to be reminded of growing up on the farm 50 to 60 years ago. Now, it’s young people wanting to show children their food doesn’t come from a box.”
Get a taste of fresh, locally grown Oklahoma foods at 34 U-pick venues across the state.
These farms offer a wide variety of produce and more year round. Pick buckets of delicious peaches, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries, as well as flowers and lavender, in the summertime. During the fall season, select the perfect, plump pumpkin from a pumpkin patch or gather and roast delicious nuts and deck the halls with a pick-your-own Christmas tree in the winter.
Learn more about the state’s U-pick farms and view a map of locations at oklahomaagritourism.com.