Traditions keep Christmas tree farm business successful - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Traditions keep Christmas tree farm business successful

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FAIRBANK (KWWL) -

Thanksgiving is over and the holiday shopping season is officially underway.  In addition to hunting down the perfect gifts, many are also shopping for the perfect Christmas tree. 

Even though 2011 has been one of the driest years in decades, the Christmas tree crop in eastern Iowa is looking pretty good.  Tree farmer Bob Moulds says firs and pines actually like dry weather.  They only suffer when it gets too wet.  And despite a down economy, real Christmas trees are still selling like crazy.

Teresa Schares and her family walk through row after row of firs trying to spot the perfect Christmas tree:  one that's full and stands about seven feet tall.  The annual adventure is a cherished family tradition.

"You have your personal choice when you come out for a real tree.  It's the tree that everybody picked," Schares said. "And then when you put ornaments on it, it becomes the family tree, whereas an artificial one you put it up, take it down and pack it away."

The Schares have been choosing and chopping down a fresh tree at Wapsie Pines Farm near Fairbank for the last 10 years.  It's those repeat customers who value the tree farm experience that keep the business successful.

"It's a tradition.  Our best year was 2008.  That was the bad year when the economy started going south, and that was our best year ever in terms of selling trees.  I don't know what it is, but it's a priority for people," said Bob Moulds, owner of Wapsie Pines Tree Farm.

In the first few days of the Christmas shopping season, right after Thanksgiving, Wapsie Pines sells about 1,000 trees.  Even though this is the farm's busiest times, workers at the farm stay busy all year round.

"Even in the winter time, we're ordering our new trees and doing all the book work.  In April, we start planting trees.  Then after we plant them, we've got to straighten them with bamboo sticks.  Then we have to mow all the grass and spray for weeds, spray for bugs," Moulds said. "In late June, early July, we hand shape them all.  Then before you know it, fall's here and we start getting ready to sell."

Once the tree shopping season arrives, employees spend lots of time hauling in trees from the field, shaking out the loose needles, netting them up, and helping load them into customers' cars.  It's all to help ensure the farm's firs and pines truly help make this the most wonderful time of year for every family that treasures their real tree traditions.

Wapsie Pines is only open for tree shopping 17 days each year.  And not long after the holidays, tree farm employees will be back at work, preparing the crop for next Christmas.

And the farm is once again participating in the "Trees for Troops" program.  15 of the farm's finest trees will be sent out Monday to military bases across the US and world.  It's a portion of the 100 trees which will be donated to the program this year through the Iowa Tree Growers Association.

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