Make your home page

Christmas tree farming: a patient and persistent form of art

Christmas tree farming: a patient and persistent form of art

CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Winter usually brings with it snow and cold, but also many family traditions around the holidays.

One tradition is venturing out and cutting down the perfect tree, but, before the tree makes its way into your home, it takes almost a decade to grow. They battle the elements and need lots of care.

One family with a farm in Crawfordsville says growing these trees is a true labor of love.

The Stines are grain farmers at heart. Rachel Stine brought up the idea to her husband, Matt, about expanding the family farm to something a little more festive: Christmas trees.

Oak Hill Farms was born soon after. Rachel said, “One of the things we’re trying to do is create traditions and memories for families.”

It’s a childhood activity Rachel remembers and wants to pass along to her kids. But, trying to grow and nurture acres of trees takes time.

Matt said, “I think the most important thing with a Christmas tree farm is a little bit of ignorance, because it does take so long and so much patience.”

More than a decade’s worth of patience is what it takes. From seedlings to maturity, it takes roughly about 11 years until the trees are ready to be cut down.

Weather impacts

Matt says he is constantly watching the weather forecast.

He says these trees thrive in slightly drier-than-average conditions and cooler temperatures. “There’s been two years we’ve been pretty dry. Particularly this year with the seedlings we tried to get established. The mortality rate has been a little higher just due to being dry. This year we got some irrigation,” he said.

Irrigation has helped the trees this year. The mature trees have done very well and will be ready to be cut this season.

The next weather worry to watch for is spring temperatures. Matt said, “A really late freeze hurts these little buds you can barely see right now, but next year this is the branch for next year. It will pop out in early spring, and if we get a hard freeze in early May, that can get kind of scary.”

Not only do they face impacts from the weather here but also from wildlife. Some trees face damage from deer rubbing antlers on it. However, these trees may still be useable for garlands and wreaths.

The Stines have 12,000 trees, and all of them are in various stages of development. Each one gets special attention several times a year, like testing soil samples to help find deficiencies in the trees.

The Stines then fertilize and sheer them. The shape we’re so used to seeing isn’t natural; each one is individually trimmed to look like a cone.

Matt said, “So, you have to come in and prune the tops to get and keep the conical shape. You want it to be nice and full the whole way down. You don’t want it super thick or super thin – that’s all part of the art.”.

The art is also a labor of love. By the time a tree reaches your house, the countless hours spent caring for it won’t even be noticeable.

“One of the things with the weather is this is not going to produce, and another leader is going to have to take over, which is going to require quite a bit of trimming from us. It doesn’t mean this tree won’t make it. It doesn’t require extra attention from us,” Matt said.

Rows upon rows of trees are looked over carefully, trimmed, and given extra attention, so you can make those family memories.

Rachel says not to worry about supply. “There are certain areas that might run out of trees than others and there are certainly challenges with the weather but there are a plethora of trees available for you to cut.”

Many Christmas tree farms open up on Thanksgiving weekend. For more information and a list of Christmas tree farms near you, visit the Indiana Christmas Tree Growers Association.