TOWN OF WITTENBERG — The familiar fragrance of Christmas trees isn’t the only scent wafting across Spring Brook Tree Farm.
“Everyone who gets a tree also gets one of my homemade cookies,” Betty Zeinert said with a smile. “People say they taste good and you can smell when they’re baked and ready to eat. I end up making a lot of them during the holidays, maybe about 400 or 500 cookies.”
That genuine personal touch defines Spring Brook Tree Farm, where Betty, 75, and her husband, Darwin, 77, have been welcoming families and making memories since they started selling Christmas trees in 1995.
“We don’t have a lot of gimmicks,” Darwin said. “We just have a passion for growing and selling Christmas trees and helping create special moments for people.”
Added Betty: “People love feeling the fresh air and having that freedom of walking in something that’s not commercialized. It’s very natural here. We have a lot of families come and make it a tradition to pick a tree on our farm. Many children cut their very first Christmas tree here, and we love that. It’s fabulous sharing this with families.”
More than 8,000 balsam fir, Fraser fir and Canaan fir trees blanket Spring Brook Tree Farm’s 79 acres. They are available as cut-your-own or pre-cut.
“We have a lot of choose-and-cuts where families come out and the children are all so happy when they jump out of the vehicle,” Darwin said. “We like to see that.”
The Zeinerts share that enthusiasm for agriculture and the outdoors.
Darwin was raised on his family’s 40-cow dairy farm in the nearby Shawano County community of Shepley. After high school he attended UW-River Falls and went on to earn his master’s degree in agricultural education.
Darwin spent 35 years teaching agriculture, including seven years as a high school ag teacher/FFA adviser at Seneca, Crivitz and Bowler schools, and 28 years at Northcentral Technical College.
Meanwhile, Betty was raised nearby in the rural village of Tigerton. When Darwin first mentioned his idea of starting a tree farm, Betty wholeheartedly agreed.
“I was in agriculture, so I knew something about trees,” Darwin said. “We both gave it a try and never looked back.”
The couple bought 40 acres in 1974 and eventually added another 39 acres, giving them their current total of 79 acres. Their first batch of 1,000 seedlings was planted in 1985 “with the intent of it being something for our retirement later in life,” Darwin said.
Ten years later, the first Christmas trees were big enough to be sold.
Before the Zeinerts bought the land, the property was known as Spring Brook Dairy Farm and much of the land was used for growing alfalfa and corn. For a while, the Zeinerts raised several cattle, as well as pigs and chickens, before opting to start a tree farm.
“I just like to watch things grow,” said Darwin, who also nurtures a vegetable garden. “And I enjoy going out there and trimming trees. It’s like a hobby. We don’t run it as a profitable business. It’s a hobby that pays a little bit and lets us have fun meeting new people.”
Betty said they do some wholesale selling as well.
The Zeinerts don’t employ any workers, so they hand-trim the trees with occasional assistance from some of their grandchildren. Overall, the couple has five children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Some children and adults visit Spring Brook Tree Farm not only to select a tree but to slide down a large hill on the property.
“Everybody loves going to the top of our hill,” Betty said. “Darwin made a long bench there. People will bring their sandwiches and go up there and have lunch. It’s beautiful up there. You can overlook all the Christmas trees from there.”
Spring Brook Tree Farm, at W17076 Willow Road, is open most days during the holiday season. “We like to close by about 4 o’clock,” Darwin said, noting they sell by the honor system if someone comes when they’re gone.
For more information about the tree farm, call 715-253-2883.