My dad started going to the Chigago area to sell Christmas trees in 1945. He said there weren't Christmas tree farms then, he would just go out to the woods and cut down the trees and haul them south. Sometimes they were so Charlie Brownish he could tie 5 together in one bundle. Eventually he started buying wholesale from some farms in Wisconsin. Then in 1979 they stopped dairy farming and we started planting our fields full of Christmas trees. He expanded to operating three retail lots in the Chicago area and filling a few wholesale orders. I spent several years running a lot for my dad before I had kids. Dave and I have continued the Chicago retail tradition when Dave opened his first lot in Illinois over 20 years ago. Hannah became the third generation to make sales on the retail lot the years she helped Dave. We are also still shipping wholesale to the same customers Dad had all those years ago.
In the early years dad would leave home around December 12th and sell trees until it got dark on Christmas Eve. Then pack up and head home, hoping he made it in time to celebrate Christmas with us. I remember not sleeping listening for the sound of his truck. Whatever unwrapped presents that were hidden in that truck were the ones we all waited for. The 'Chicago' presents were more anticipated than Santa's! Now people put their trees up at Thanksgiving and take them down the day after Christmas. Dave was sold out and came home on December 12 last year. So while somethings stay the same, others change.
Here on the farm the tradition is the Choose & Cut weekends. Serving mom's hot cider recipe has been almost as big of a draw as the trees for the past 25 years. (I'll add her recipe to the end of this post, it's been awhile since I shared it). These days Santa and Mrs Clause make stops at Elmcrest.
One thing we've learned is traditions are important. We see the same families year after year, we treasure our decorations as we unwrap them each year, the cider is special because we only make it at Christmas. However, another thing we've learned is change isn't necessarily a bad thing. This year a big tradition is changing for us. Dave will be spending tree season here on the farm and not in Illinois. There were a variety of small things that when we sat down and listed them out made the decision clear. That doesn't mean it wasn't a hard decision. It's hard to break a 74 year old tradition, it was hard for Dave to know several families will be looking for him and he won't be there. The positives are he won't be away from home for Thanksgiving, he won't be away from home for almost a month, he'll get to see the families we see here on the farm, and maybe most of all there is a little less work!