Nothing else declares that you’re home for the holidays like an evergreen wreath hanging on the front door, welcoming family, neighbors and the occasional delivery person dropping off holiday packages.
Perhaps that’s why holiday wreaths have become a growing share of the family business at Carlson Tree Farm in Hampton. In recent years, the wreaths have outsold the fresh-cut Christmas trees, says Michelle Hartman, daughter of the farm’s owners, Dennis and Cathy Carlson, who are Franklin County Farm Bureau members.
Every holiday season, the Carlsons offer on-farm workshops for up to 200 guests to create their own wreaths to take home. This year, the workshops sold out within 48 hours after registration opened.
Michelle says many of the participants are women who sign up with friends for a “gals’ day out,” so they can fully embrace the holiday season and reconnect with their creativity.
“People are into the experience. They want to do hands-on types of projects,” Michelle explains. “And what we do is totally unique. We tell them to come dressed down. Don’t come in your best clothes. You are going to be working with greenery from the trees, so you will get sap on yourself.”
The wreath-making workshops take place inside a small shed on the Carlsons’ farm. Each participant receives a metal ring as a base for their wreath. They can pick up to three types of greenery. Then they learn how to operate a pedal-style wreath-making machine, which bends the greenery into shape.
Guests can choose up to 50 different styles of ribbon as a final touch of decoration for their wreaths. The wreaths will stay fresh through March.
“It’s just a hands-on experience,” Michelle says. “And it smells amazing. When you cut into greenery, you get that Christmas smell. And then they finish it all the way to the bow and pine cones. They take it home. And people are proud of something they can make and put on their front door.”
For those of us who weren’t lucky to reserve a spot in the sold-out workshops, the Carlsons also sell handmade wreaths on their farm throughout the Christmas season. Family and friends work in shifts to make the wreaths during the holidays.
“Everything we make is unique. These aren’t the flat wreaths that you find in stores. They are full wreaths, about 5 to 6 inches thick, made with different types of greenery. They are more designed,” Michelle explains.
In addition, visitors can buy pre-cut or cut-your-own Christmas trees on the farm, as well as holiday decor made from antique sleds, snowshoes and more.
All three generations of the Carlton family pitch in to help guests, create wreaths and lead the workshops, Michelle says.
Every Thanksgiving, more than 25 family members gather for dinner on the farm. Then they wake up early on Friday morning to greet the first customers looking to find the perfect Christmas tree.
Michelle says her daughters, Hope, 17, and Ivy, 12, love helping out on their grandparents’ tree farm over the holidays. (If you’re wondering, the girls’ names weren’t meant to be Christmasy, Michelle says. They were named after family members.)
“Now they are working hands-on, doing the same things that I did when I was their age,” Michelle says.
The Carlsons also try their best to make visitors feel welcome. They offer a farm scavenger hunt for the kids, and families can play with the farm’s many barn cats and everyone’s favorite Black Lab, Sophie.
“We want our farm to be a place where people can create holiday memories,” Michelle says. “We want them to have a farm experience. So many people have no idea what happens on a farm and how things are grown, so it’s a lot of education as well.”
Registration for next year’s wreath-making workshops will open on Oct. 1, 2020. Be sure to sign up fast, Michelle notes, because they always sell out.
For updates on workshops, holiday happenings and items for sale, look for Carlson Tree Farm on Facebook and Instagram. You can also learn more at carlsontreefarm.com.