Bringing in the season
After 30 years in the business, people keep coming to Harmony Christmas Tree Farm near Stuart.
Live Christmas trees are more popular than ever. Business is good.
“Last year was unreal,” says Janet Bassett. Janet, along with her husband, Marvin, own and operate the tree farm. “In the three days after Thanksgiving, we sold 134 trees. For our small 4-acre farm, that’s just a tremendous amount.” In an average year, Harmony Christmas Tree Farm sells 225 trees across the entire holiday season.
Business was so good, it was an inspiration. Getting older and facing health issues, the Bassetts had all but decided to call it quits. They had stopped planting trees, choosing instead to sell what trees they had while they could as they phased out the business.
Planting more trees
But that changed after last year’s rush. Marvin planted 275 new trees.
“We lost a few to the drought, and the rest won’t be grown for 10 to 12 years,” says Janet.
This year, the Bassetts will be open and ready for business the day after Thanksgiving, but trees will be limited. They will add to their own limited supply with trees from other suppliers, as much as they are available.
“We’d like to have even more,” says Janet. “But our sources are also facing shortages.” One Iowa grower lost several trees to deer, and out-of-state trees are nearly impossible to obtain. “We’ve heard the same thing from people around the country. For whatever reason, trees are just not crossing state lines.”
A life-long venture
Marvin and Janet Bassett married and began farming in 1960 and planted their first Christmas trees in the late 1980s. In 1995, they sold a handful of trees. Business has expanded each year since.
The farm draws customers from the local area as well as across the state. Many keep coming back. One regular couple buys their tree each year while in the area visiting their daughter for Thanksgiving. The first year they came, their twin grandchildren were in car seats. This year, they are seniors in high school.
The Bassetts have seen changes in tree choices. Originally, people wanted Scotch Pines, with their long, soft needles. Now they want short-needled Fraser Firs.
“But Frasers are hard to grow here,” says Janet, “so we offer Canaan Firs, a cross between Frasers and Balsam Fir.”
Harmony Christmas Tree Farm also offers Blue Spruce, Douglas Fir and White Pine.
“We’re almost out of the White Pine,” says Janet. “They have long needles and thin branches and require special handling. The people who want them have to know how to handle and decorate them.”
The trees at Harmony often come with handling advice.
“For one thing, all trees should be watered with hot water. It keeps the trees fresher,” says Janet.
Harmony allows customers to participate as much as they like in the tree selection and gathering process. Some choose to cut their own; others choose their tree for the Bassetts to cut and haul from the grove.
Some come early to select and mark their tree, returning after Thanksgiving to collect it. Others have last minute family outing traditions.
Once the tree is chosen and cut, loose needles are shaken from the tree, and it is wrapped with mesh and loaded — sometimes tied with twine to the top of a car.
As the customer settles up, kids get a coloring book and a candy cane. Tree bags to wrap the tree for easy disposal are sold for $1 each.
Wreaths and greenery are part of the holiday offering. Janet starts picking up trinkets on sale to incorporate into the decorations shortly after the holidays and spends many fall hours making bows.
Harmony Christmas Tree Farm is a family affair, with most of Marvin's and Janet’s grown children and grandchildren helping with tree sales and wreath-making. Even the littlest ones hand out candy canes.
“That makes it fun in itself,” says Janet.
Harmony Christmas Tree Farm is located 5 miles south of Stuart and 9 miles north of Highway 92, just off the Stuart Road. They officially open the weekend after Thanksgiving. Updates on sales can be found on their Facebook page, Harmony Christmas Tree Farm.
Queck-Matzie is a freelance writer from Greenfield.
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