The wind carries the scent of the holidays at Spruce Goose Christmas Tree Farm. Eager customers walk through rows of evergreens in search of the perfect tree.
“It’s really starting to kick off the Christmas spirit this has been a tradition of mine since I was a kid,” said Tanner Ogilvie of Cinnaminson.
“This is the second year I’ve had my grandson help me and cut it down, so it’s been something that we’ll remember in years to come,” said Carol Dolci of Yardville.
Owners John and Karyn Benton are grateful their family business is creating family memories. This year, their Douglas fir was selected as the 2017 New Jersey Grand Champion Christmas Tree.
There are about 15,000 trees on Spruce Goose Christmas Tree Farm on 10 acres. The Benton’s are celebrating the 25th season of their ‘choose and cut’ tree business, but it actually all started in 1987 when they planted their first 8,000 tree seedlings. John says it typically takes eight to 10 years for a Christmas tree to reach about 8 feet tall. He purchases seedlings from Christmas tree nurseries and cares for the evergreens year after year.
“I start shearing the trees, shaping the trees to that perfect Christmas tree shape, usually in the beginning of June and I usually don’t finish until October,” said Benton.
John does all of that so customers like have thousands of good looking trees to choose from.
“I think it’s a great bonding experience. You get to witness Christmas together and start it off right, cutting down a tree together,” said Leon Jackson of Bordentown.
Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher kicked off the season and some trees were donated to a military family and a local charity.
“It becomes a time honored tradition people come out year after year. They chose that Christmas tree, cut it, bring it back home … It’s just very magical,” said Fisher.
Christmas tree growers say ’tis the season to also support local farmers.
“We’re real farmers and we’re real families and when you choose and cut a tree on a farm you’re not supporting generally a big corporation, you’re helping to pay for a farmers living and to put food on the table,” said Christian Nicholson, president of the New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers Association.
“We sell about 70,000 trees a year,” said Fisher.
New Jersey is ranked seventh in the nation in the number of Christmas tree farms. So, how do you care for your own Christmas tree?
“Well, the most important thing is you have a fresh cut on the base of the trunk of the tree, because trees want to seal off when they’re cut or damaged in any way. They want to seal, so you have to have a fresh cut put it in water and basically treat it similar to a cut flower. That’s what important keeping the trunk in water,” said Benton.
The Bentons are prepared for a busy holiday season. They’ll relax a bit starting Dec. 26.