Tips for a Great Trip to a Choose and Cut Your Christmas Tree Farm
There's nothing like going directly to the farm and
cutting down your own tree. You won't get a tree any fresher and you can pick
just the right tree, that's for sure. But there's more to it than that.
It can be a memorable family adventure out in the country; but to make sure it doesn't become a memory in the sense of National Lampoon's Family Vacation, prepare properly!
Most important: Call before you go!
This is a very seasonal business, with many small operations. This means I list many thousands of farms and can't possibly visit, inspect or even call each of them (I rely mostly on feedback from you, and the farmers themselves). Often, they run out of trees, or a storm can damage their crop, or they simply retire or go out of business. So ALWAYS confirm via phone or email that they are open the hours you expect and have what you want, before you go to the farm!
What to expect at the farm
Some farms are little more than a couple of guys like Earl from "My Name is Earl" (okay, for you older folks, think of Cletis and Cooter from "Dukes of Hazzard") and a few saws. Others look like miniature versions of a Six Flags amusement park. Most are somewhere in between.
- Saws and equipment- Saws are usually provided, and most will cut the tree for you (usually for a small fee) if you'd rather not cut it yourself. Note: some will let you choose the tree, but not cut it yourself, so be sure to ask when you call! Most farms also provide wheelbarrows or other tools for transport. Many will wrap your tree and tie it on your car for you. I recommend you bring your own rope or bungee cords with you; they may not have it or run out.
- Shaking - The trees have been living outside all year, and may well have become home to spiders. Get the farmer to evict Charlotte (and her web) by shaking the tree on their mechanical shaker.
- Baling - Many farms also have baling (tree wrapping for transporting) or bagging for no fee or a small fee.
- Restrooms - Look for restrooms in the listings. Most people don't appreciate yellow snow or yellow trees. One farm actually (and prominently) announces that they have "hole-in-the-ground toilets". Gerr-ross!
Here are some features to look for in the listings to have more fun:
- Hay rides, wagon rides or sleigh rides - To make sleigh rides easier to find, I highlighted the words, sleigh rides, in the farm's listings when they have them! Of course, when there is no snow on the ground, there can't be a sleigh ride. Some farms substitute horse drawn hay rides or tractor-pulled wagon rides - check with them before you go!
- Santa visits are almost exclusively on the weekends. I guess he takes a break from toy-making on the weekends to do some tree inspecting.
- Refreshments - Some tree farms also have refreshments, but as that is probably their most profitable sale, you'd do well to bring your own.
- Petting zoos and farm animals. Kids will always remember the trip to the farm when they saw the reindeer! Other farms have less exotic animals; so pet the cow, and have a burger on the way home (to teach the kids a lesson life about life) "Yeah, I know you just petted her, now EAT her!" :)
- Extra greens - Most farms will either sell or provide for free cut branches for greens. Most also sell wreaths, garland and boughs.
- Miscellaneous - Tree stands are usually sold ob the farms. Many farms also sell disposal bags which will help to make clean up after Christmas much easier!
- Gift shops - Christmas-themed gift shops selling ornaments, stockings and crafts are standard at many farms!
What to bring
- Pack for a day trip - I always bring snacks, hand towels or disposable wipes and plenty of liquids to drink.
- Dress in old clothes and hiking boots or old athletic shoes; you want to be comfortable and not worried about staining or tearing your clothes! If the ground is wet, it will really ruin any nice shoe, so wear your beat up old ones! Bring heavy gloves to protect your hands and a jacket or other garment to protect your arms.
- Bring layered clothing, and some extra socks and a blanket. Dress for the weather. The kids may get wet feet, or cold. When you get back to the car, you can wrap them up in the blanket and they'll sleep all the way home!
- The weather could change without notice. If you get hit by a downpour (presuming it's not cold enough for snow), be ready to switch to Plan B and if you can't wait it out, go to the backup plan; such as a visit to a museum, tourist or historic site nearby. Your kids will remember it as "the time we went to cut a Christmas tree and instead had fun doing" something else.
- Pack snacks. You'll be gone for a while and all that being outdoors will work up a big appetite! Bring a cooler and back it with your favorite snacks; hot chocolate or warm apple cider are great. Many farms supply free cider, coffee and hot chocolate; some have lunches and snack for sale.
- Don't forget the camera. You may want to capture those memories you're making. But remember you'll be out on the farm and bring a cheap or disposable camera, rather than the expensive one.
Transporting your tree home
- Protect your car - Place a sheet of plastic or an old blanket over the roof of your car to protect the paint and finish.
- Prepare the tree - Get the tree shaken and baled (wrapped) before loading it.
- Load the tree - Lift the tree and place it on the roof. Get help if the tree is very large.
- Tie the tree down - Wind the rope or bungee cord all around - over the tree, then under the roof and back over the tree - until the tree is secure. Tie the rope or cord securely. Pull on the tree and make sure it's tightly tied.
- Drive home safely!
- Some tree dealers will deliver the tree right to your front door.