Christmas tree farm welcomes customers for last full season

BORDEN, Ind. (AP) — There’s a lot that goes into running a Christmas tree farm. For Mike Meyer, owner of Meyer Christmas Trees, it took more than soil and sunshine to make his trees, and business, grow. It took 40 acres of land peppered with trees and 40 years of work.

“You have to have plenty of patience because it takes 10 years to get an 8-foot-tall tree. Every year, you have to keep planting so you have more in the rotation,” Laura Meyer, Mike’s wife and co-owner of the farm, said.

Mike planted his first batch of trees around 1977 and made his first sale in 1982. That year, five total customers took home a tree Meyer had planted for their Christmas tree. It would take another six years before they turned a profit.

“That’s the thing — it takes a long, long time,” Mike said.

The business grew and at one point, the couple had as many as 40,000 spruces and firs thriving on their property.

Though the customers cut down their own tree, the Meyers do plenty of their own work throughout the year to keep things running.

“Not a lot of people know this, but you have to shear them each year,” Laura said. Shearing gives each tree the perfect cone shape we are all used to and timing is key, particularly when it comes the crowd-pleasing pine varietal.

“If you shear them too late, they die back and if you shear them too early they’ll start growing again,” according to Mike.

In November and December, customers come to the small operation down a gravel road and take to the fields for their annual pick.

Alanna Doherty brought her family to the farm Nov. 24 for their tree. Doherty said her family always went to “u-cut” tree farms and she has never — and will never — have an artificial Christmas tree.

“It’s just how I grew up. I grew up cutting down my own trees. I think it’s a more elevated experience than going somewhere where it’s already wrapped or cut down for you,” she said.

The clan found a contender and, after some light discussion, used a bow saw to take it down.

When it comes to why she prefers a real tree to an artificial to begin with, Doherty says “the smell,” without hesitation.

This is the second year Doherty has visited Meyer Christmas Trees and she isn’t alone — Mike and Laura both say a large portion of their customer base is repeat customers whom they’ve gotten to know over the years. They are now getting third or fourth generation customers, depending on which you ask.

Seeing those customers is one thing Mike will miss when the farm closes. They haven’t planted any new trees in five or fix years and next year will only be open on weekends or if someone stops by.

The two are hoping to officially retire and enjoy time off together year-round.

“We had both worked two full time jobs, he had his tax business and Christmas tree business so when we retired we thought we would put our feet up and rest, but it hasn’t worked out that way,” Laura said. “With the trees and the taxes, from end of November through April 15th can’t go anywhere and in June we have to shear, so (closing) is going to clear us up a bit.”

Though they haven’t planted in several years, there are have around 1,000 trees to pick from this year. Next year, that number drops to around 500 according to Mike, the main reason why they are going to limited hours and won’t be advertising.

“It takes a lot of time to get in it,” he said, “and a lot of time to get out of it.”