O Christmas Tree

By Kalea Hall



The smoke from the fire curls up in the air and hits its admirers’ noses, warming them as they wait.

It’s Black Friday morning, and elsewhere, people wait in line for TVs and tablets.

But at Pioneer Trails Tree Farm in Poland, families – surrounded by sights, sounds and smells of the holiday season – unite to embrace the tradition of picking out a Christmas tree.

All bundled up with doughnuts and hot chocolate in hand, the families eagerly await the arrival of Clydesdale horses to take them out into the acres upon acres of trees at the farm.

“It’s just the experience from way back when,” said Chappie Bair of Poland. “Tradition plays a big role in the family.”

Chappie and his wife, Bitsy, have been coming to Pioneer since it started selling trees in 1990.

They used to bring their children, and now they bring their children and grandchildren.

“It’s just a fun event for us,” Chappie said.

At the 50-acre farm that has 40 acres of trees with about 40,000 trees, customers grab doughnuts and hot chocolate to benefit Operation Evergreen, a trees-for-troops organization.

Next, they head to check out what kind of tree to buy. Some are softer than others, and some are sturdier, but all have a homegrown feel.

“It usually takes seven to 10 years to get it big enough to sell for a Christmas tree,” said Mary Jan Perdulla, owner of the farm.

Running the farm takes dedication and knowledge. Perdulla comes with both.

In her boots, jeans, green sweater and green and red scarf, Perdulla talks trees. It’s what she knows.

“I am a second-generation farmer,” Perdulla said.

Mary Jan and her husband, Frank, started to plant trees in the 1980s and had their first year of selling in 1990.

Each spring brings another time for planting. Then there’s fertilization, mowing, trimming and shaping of the trees.

“I really like the shaping and the pruning to try to make the tree as beautiful as possible,” Perdulla said. “I really beam when someone comes back and says there were so many beautiful trees that we couldn’t decide what to get.”

Customers on Friday hopped onto a horse-drawn wagon and out to the field with their black sleds and saws to cut their favorite tree down. The Canaan Fir is the top seller.

So far, business has been busy. One-third of the business is expected to be new customers and two-thirds are repeat customers.

“Most people continue the tradition,” Perdulla said.

At a smaller “boutique” farm in Poland, Fodor Tree Farm, the tradition is now six years in the making for Tara and Jon Foder. The 11-acre farm has four acres of trees. Jon’s father started the farm in the 1960s. In 2009, Tara and Jon took over the farm.

It’s not just trees at the Fodor Farm. Tara takes pride in her wreath making while Jon covers the tree side of the business.

“We have a friendly competition,” Jon said.

The business and the farm have slowly grown each year. The hope is to remain a boutique farm that continues to be a part of a family tradition.

“It really gets you in the holiday spirit,” Tara said of the farm. “We love having families come out and friends come out and visit in the holiday fun.”

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