evergreen tree in field
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The Thanksgiving meal has been had (hopefully with a local turkey and/or local produce) and now it’s time to start thinking about putting up a tree for Christmas. Did you grow up with a fake plastic tree like some of my friends did? If so, that’s ok, but there is another way.

Every year about this time of year as a kid, my two brothers and I would go out with my parents to the local Christmas tree farm we lived near to in Northern Illinois and do a whole lot of walking around with a handsaw in search of the perfect tree. Bundled up, we would talk as a family about the characteristics we were searching for.

It couldn’t be too tall, but should be tall enough; not too full, just full enough; not too wide to block both living room windows; not too skinny either!

We’d finally find the perfect tree, sometimes a Douglas fir, Balsam, Frazier fir or others. Then the boys would take turns laying down in the snow or on the cold ground and begin the process of sawing through the stump. It was hard, cold, and sometimes wet or muddy. But it meant something, and it was with family.

After we cut it, we’d carry it back, get it bundled up, and have some apple cider, hot cocoa, or donuts that the tree farm business provided. Sometimes we’d get a wreath too; these are all great options if you’d like to support these businesses but don’t wish to buy a tree.

These are some of my favorite memories as a kid growing up, and now you have the opportunity to provide something like this for your kids or grandkids. Consider supporting a local farmer this year AND giving your young ones a unique experience that ties them to the soil that grew the tree, agrotourism, and the holiday spirit.

Yes, there are needles to clean up. Yes, you need to water the tree in its pan, sometimes a lot! My personal opinion: the smell is worth it. Besides daily morning coffee, there’s no better smell all year than a fresh-cut Christmas tree in your living room.

Here are three Christmas tree farms within one hour’s drive of Bloomington-Normal, or closer!

  • Phillips Christmas Trees – Heyworth, IL – (217) 853-3793
  • Talbott’s Christmas Tree Farm – Green Valley, IL – (309) 348-3833
  • Real Evergreen – Le Roy, IL – (309) 962-8195

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nick Frillman is a Local Foods and Small Farms Educator serving Livingston, McLean & Woodford counties. A fourth-generation graduate from University of Illinois, Frillman has a B.A. with a double major of Political Science and Spanish and a M.S. in Crop Science with a focus on crop production. Before joining Illinois Extension, Frillman completed a field season of CSA and farmers’ market style production at a small “beyond-organic” vegetable farm in Sandy, Ore.