GRANTON — Paul Vine said he was anticipating the coming of Christmas for a different reason than most.
Vine, who runs Vine’s Christmas Trees with his family, said the hectic tree season comes to an end Dec. 25, but the work continues on a tree farm.
“Because we are a choose-and-cut business, we still have people coming and getting their trees all the way up until the weekend before,” Vine said. “But starting Dec. 26, we start cleaning and putting away equipment and the stands for our cut trees.”
As cleanup begins, Vine said he also meets with his two sisters and his wife to talk about what went well in the season and what they would like to improve for next year.
“We take notes and keep track of what we want to do and how we want to improve,” he said.
In the weeks that follow, Vine said they work to clean up the fields, which often have stumps of varying heights left behind by their choose-and-cut customers.
“We have some customers who leave stumps 1 to 3 feet tall,” he said. “We encourage them not to, but it still happens so I spend some time cutting stumps.”
Then he gets to work pruning the 3- to 5-foot-tall trees until they break buds in the spring. He also begins thinking about planting, which will take place on the farm in April.
“January through March aren’t nearly as stressful or hectic so we take some time to just relax, but there is always something to do,” Vine said.
Despite talk early in the season of a Christmas tree shortage, Vine said he didn’t see that as a problem in central Wisconsin this year.
“When you look at 10 years ago in 2008 during the recession, I can certainly understand that there were probably growers who reduced the number of trees planted, and it takes about 10 years for some trees to mature,” he said. “We did not. We have continued to plant between 3,000 and 4,000 trees a year since about 2004 or 2005. We have plenty of trees and are continuing to plant that number every year.”
Vine said he has seen the popularity increase of real trees over the years, with his choose-and-cut tree business sales up about 12 percent from 2017.
“I don’t know what the reason is for that, but I see people saying they want to go back to a real tree. I have found a number of my customers who have told me they have always had an artificial tree and this year, they were going to try a real tree,” he said.
One reason Vine sees choose-and-cut trees gaining popularity is people’s desire to create traditions with their families.
“More families want to have that agritourism experience and that family experience. We try to find ways to enhance their experience while they are on our farm,” he said.
The Vine family does this through horse-drawn wagon rides to and from the field every Saturday in December, complimentary coffee and hot chocolate and a fire pit for families to sit around and warm up. They also added a tree shaker last year to meet one of the requests of many of their customers, and they have hosted a pre-tagging event in October for the past two years.
“Families that want to come out and pre-tag their tree can come out and decorate their tree. We had some unique decorations this year from Halloween to putting bows and ribbons on trees,” Vine said.
He said they also have found that increasing their social media presence has helped promote their farm. Vine estimates that nine out of 10 of his customers find their business on Facebook, Instagram or other social media, a trend with which they have had to work to keep up. He said they hope people will continue to buy real trees and that those interested in finding a grower close to them should visit the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Growers website.
For more information about Vine’s Christmas Trees, visit www.vineschristmastrees.com or check them out on social media.