At The Farm GateMemories trim the tree
The first test of our marriage arrived with our first Christmas tree. I wanted the picture-perfect experience: Newlyweds strolling through the local tree farm. Big, falling snowflakes. Lots of laughter while wearing a cute stocking hat with matching mittens. You know, just in case someone would snap our photo for a magazine cover.
In reality, I cannot remember anything about that first tree-hunting experience except the trials of getting the tree to stand upright in the living room.
For years following that first Christmas, my husband told relatives, friends and any newly married man of when he had to cut a board from the garage wall to strengthen the “cheap tree stand” I had purchased. (An important note: His family celebrated with artificial trees.) I reasoned that my family had used the same style of tree stand in my childhood for fresh-cut trees. But telling your new husband how his father-in-law does the job likely ranks a top 10 no-no in the book of happily ever after.
During that post-Christmas sale, I bought a heavy-duty, steel stand on discount. HHhere we are 20 years later, still married, using that stand and visiting local tree farms that give us the enjoyment of a fresh fir in the living room. Illinois claims home to 272 Christmas tree farms growing more than 3,700 acres of trees that deliver holiday cheer, according to 2017 Census of Agriculture, the most current data available. The Illinois Christmas Tree Association reports that 98% of fresh-cut trees grow renewably on farms, as opposed to harvested from the wild.
Our teenage kids love the fresh-cut tradition, and we can relate to those tree farm families in the thick of a harvest season that just ended for us. While growing a different Illinois crop, we share the same connection to the land and aspirations for the next generation. I hope those tree farm owners also find satisfaction in the life-lasting memories they create for families like ours.
Twenty years ago, guests placed gifts under a fresh Christmas tree at our late summer wedding. We called it the “wedding tree,” a 12-foot scotch pine with silver ribbon, heart ornaments and glass balls containing childhood photos. The local tree farm gifted us the tree, which married my enjoyment of Christmas trees with the traditional gift table. My groom had suspicions at “I do” what he was getting into.
About the author: Joanie Stiers farms with her family in West-Central Illinois, where they grow corn, soybeans, wheat, hay and cover crops and raise beef cattle and backyard chickens. She loves the Christmas season and listens to holiday music in the tractor radio during harvest.