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klahoma Christmas tree growers are selling more than a real Christmas tree—holiday shoppers are buying an authentic ex- perience. Like a Norman Rockwell painting, it’s easy to picture chil- dren running excitedly through rows of full, fragrant pine trees, choosing at least four or five they would want to take home and fill with decora- tions. Parents keep up the pace behind them, snapping photos and sip- ping apple cider along the way. “That’s how I got into the business,” LaRue Hill, owner of D&L


Christmas Tree and Wreaths, says. “I love seeing those kids’ faces light up like they haven’t been lit before.” The Caddo Electric Cooperative member has been farming Christmas


trees since he retired from Elgin Schools in 1988. His wife, DeAnn, crafts homemade wreaths on display throughout the farm. To the children’s delight, noises other than Christmas music likely belong to the couple’s small goats, burro, goose, duck and a couple of chickens. Hill says his Fletcher, Okla., farm still maintains that strong fami- ly-friendly environment. “You can take your time, go slow and enjoy the good evergreen aro- ma,” Hill says.


Fresh off the Farm


The aroma mostly comes from Virginia Pine and Scotch Pine trees, the top selling Christmas tree varieties in Oklahoma. Some growers, like Pleasant Valley Farms in Sand Springs, Okla., will import pre-cut fir trees as well. Owner and Indian Electric Cooperative member Randy Owens says the “real farm” experience adds more value to the tree. “We’ve got Santa Clause and his workshop, wagon rides, hot drinks and candy canes,” Owens says. “It’s more of a tradition to come out to the farm.” When Owens first started farming trees, he thought everyone wanted that perfect, conical-shaped, well-trimmed tree. “Boy did I learn a lesson,” Owens says. “People picking trees is about as different as people look.”


Some may be looking for a tree with a hole in it so they can hide a present. Others love finding a flat side so it can be placed against a wall. The preferences may vary, but Owens finds the customers remain the same. “I get to know good people and get acquainted with them,” Owens


says. “I’ve seen kids since they were five years old, and now they’re in college.” Melissa Burris has been visiting Pleasant Valley Farms with her family for the past 10 years. Her two girls can’t wait to see the barnyard animals and take a peek at Santa’s workshop filled with wooden carved toys. “We love the atmosphere,” Burris says. “As long as you make sure the trees get plenty of water, they really are easy to take care of. And you just can’t beat that Christmas tree smell.” For allergy suffers who may be aggravated by the scent, Jerry and April


Adams of JANDA Bend Christmas Tree Farm in Stilwell, Okla., have a hypoallergenic option—the Leyland Cypress. “The flat branches come out in a very nice conical shape, without the smell of pine,” Jerry Adams says. “They remind people around here of the cedar trees they used to cut down when they were kids, but they’re more of a refined look without the strong fire hazard.” Jerry Adams is not a lifelong farmer—he grew up in the California Bay


Area then had a career as a geophysicist in Houston, Texas. After “driving a desk” in the oil industry for 25 years, the Ozarks Electric Cooperative members purchased 160 acres nestled into the foothills of the Ozarks.


18


“There is always such a rush getting ready for Christmas. When people arrive at the farm, you can just see them relax. We have that benefit all the time, but it’s so nice to share with others.”


- April Adams, JANDA Bend Christmas Tree Farms


His wife, April, a science educator, says they enjoy the peaceful setting during the holiday bustle. “There is always such a rush getting ready for Christmas,” April Adams


says. “When people arrive at the farm, you can just see them relax. We have that benefit all the time, but it’s so nice to share with others.”


Smell and Snap Harold Weaver, owner of W6 Pines Christmas Tree Farm in Choctaw,


Okla., says farming Christmas trees is about as fun as anything he can think of in terms of agriculture. He’s also the president of the Oklahoma Christmas Tree Association, a group comprised of about 15 active grow- ers in the state. “They’re an enormously cooperative group,” Weaver says. “If I need help or advice, a telephone call is all I need to do.” These growers have the following advice to share with shoppers who are looking to try a live tree this Christmas:


✓ Smell and snap: Give the tree a quick sniff and gently fold a branch with needles.


If the tree is fading in smell and the nee-


dles break when folded, the tree is likely drying out. ✓ Think ahead: Before you go shopping, take an inventory of


favorite ornaments. The heavier the ornaments, the sturdier the branches to look for in a tree.


✓ Look at the trunk: In Oklahoma, the wind blows in every


direction, which can cause the tree to be crooked. Many produc- ers will tie trees vertically so they will grow straight. If not, make sure a stand is available that will allow flexibility in placing the tree at the desired angle.


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