With Christmas around the corner, local Christmas tree vendors are in full-swing selling their evergreens. But it’s farmers who nurture the trees year-round who make the holiday sales possible. In fact, according to the National Christmas Tree Association, there are nearly 15,000 Christmas tree farms in the U.S. One farm in the upper peninsula of Michigan has been selling its trees to Naperville families for more than 20 years.
Workers from the Tebo Evergreen Farm in Carney, Michigan travel 300 miles to Naperville and endure hours of labor in the bitter cold to sell a Christmas staple to local families. “When you meet those families again, it’s all worth it,” said Bob Rae, Lot Manager for the Tebo Evergreen lot at 95th St. and Rt. 59. “Every time you seem like you’re a little bit down-trodden, tired and worn-out, someone will come in and lift your spirits.”
In order to keep their lots a cut above the rest, workers prepare the trees year-round.
“They have to be sheered three or four times a year to keep their conical shape and they’re harvested right around thanksgiving,” said Rae. “Once they’re down here, they’re tied in a mesh. We drill them, put them on the pegs and then we have to do what’s called feathering, get them cleaned up on the bottom so they’re presentable to the customer.”
For 500 years, families have been searching for their perfect Christmas tree, a tradition that started in Europe in 1510. But recent reports by the National Christmas Tree Association suggest that the tradition’s lost some steam. Only about 18% of households have had a real tree over the last couple years, compared to about 33% 15 years ago. But local vendors are starting to see an upswing in their sales.
“What I’m finding this year is that a lot of people are going back to the real tree,” said Rae. “They miss the smell, they miss the whole adventure, coming out and getting it and putting it up. And the kids really enjoy the real tree. The artificial tree is just not Christmas to a lot of kids.”
As for the Domark family, they’ve come to this lot for the last 10 years as part of their own family tradition.
“When my boys were just being born, we couldn’t find a tree we really liked so we thought ‘What about that stack over there?’ And so the gentleman was kind enough to say ‘By the looks of that bottom on that tree, I bet you that’s a good one,’” said Todd Domark. “So we brought it home. It was great. So ever since my two boys were little, we’ve called it a mystery tree.”
The lot managers say for every real tree harvested, up to ten more will be planted in its place.
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