By Lauren Wanko
The Dowden family is searching for a Christmas tree at Yuletide Christmas Tree Farm in New Egypt.
“I think it’s great, you get to come out here an you get to spend time together looking for a tree, looking for the right tree, I think a lot of things are lost with the convenience of buying a plastic tree with lights,” said Manchester resident Dennis Dowden.
There are more than 800 Christmas tree farms in the Garden State with 68,471 trees. Growers at Yuletide plant four different species on 20 acres, totaling about 20,000 trees.
“Well you just don’t think about it, you just do it,” said grower John Perry.
The Perry family hand plants two to three year old seedlings. It takes anywhere from seven to 10 years for the trees to grow before they become the centerpiece of someone’s living room.
“Don’t forget the first six to seven years we were here, we planted, we maintained all the trees, there was not a dollar coming in so for six to seven years, you don’t make any money,” said Perry.
Flash forward about 30 years– the family-run business now welcomes back many of the same customers every holiday season, like Cathy Falconio.
“It’s usually our tradition that right after we’re done with the turkey, on Thanksgiving, that we go out and get a tree and think about Christmas,” said Falconio.
The Allentown resident’s been picking her own Christmas tree here for the past 25 years. It’s a fairly new tradition for two-year-old Charlie Borgeson.
“My husband’s from New Hampshire and used to do this with his family so it’s a tradition we’re continuing with our family,” said Stephanie Borgeson.
“It really gives not only the families a thrill, but us as well,” said grower Glenn Perry.
Many of Yuletide’s customers like supporting local businesses.
“We like coming by here and seeing there are still farms,” said Sheri Stechna.
Grower John Perry says planting is the easiest part of the operation that happens during the spring and fall. Maintenance is the year-round job. The team is constantly checking for insects and disease, mowing the grass, they fertilize the trees, but only rely on mother nature to water the evergreens.
Once the tree begins to develop new growth, growers give the tree a hair cut of sorts. It’s called shearing. They shape them in an effort to create that perfect Christmas tree.
“Some of them grow naturally, but they all need a little help,” said John Perry.
Yultide Farm sells anywhere from 400 to 2,000 trees a season. Perry says it all depends on the weather. So far it’s been nice enough to lure customers to the farm.
The Dowden’s finally found their Christmas tree with the help of 23 month old Ela. It’s a tradition they hope she’ll one day share with her own family.
Find a list of New Jersey Christmas Tree farms to cut down your own tree here.