Growing Christmas trees is a year ‘round job; happy buyers a number one priority

(Pictured is John Blissenbach, right, giving customer, Garry Dahl, pointers on choosing the Christmas tree to suit the needs of the buyer. Staff photo by Lisa Wimmer)

“I like to talk with the people when they come, to find out what they already know and what they expect, so they get the tree that’s right for them,” Pat said. “If they are interested in a spruce, and they are aware of the shorter life span, then that’s great. I just don’t want any unhappy customers, and we have had very few.”

Pat described how the business of farming Christmas trees is just like any other business – there’s the need to go with the changes.

“Back when I was a youngster, in the 1950s, Balsam were considered a ‘weed’ tree, and that’s what my family always had, because that’s what we could afford.

“The long-needled Norway Pine was considered the ‘Cadillac’ of trees.

“People began getting the notion they wanted trees cultured – and that’s what we do here.

“Culturing is what gives us all the fullness and shape. Pruning the trees each year adds to their fullness as well as their shape. We add color to some of the trees.

“Today, the short-needled trees are the most popular. What is the best or most popular in Christmas trees has completely evolved through the years.”

Growing Christmas trees wasn’t always a full-time job for the Blissenbachs. John taught agriculture at the high school in Pierz for nearly 30 years before retiring in 1999. Pat, with a degree in art, worked as a substitute teacher over the years while raising the three children, Jonathan, Sarah and Matthew.

“The kids helped with the trees a lot as they were growing up, but they never liked it very much. Growing trees is a lot of hard work,” Pat said. “Like any job or business, most people don’t realize the inside challenges.

“First, there’s the planting. Then, we spray herbicide and pesticide. We prune each tree. Then we mow any grass the herbicide didn’t take care of.

“We also try to manage the rodents – all of this while swatting at horse flies, picking off wood ticks and sweating in the summer heat,” Pat said.

“Greening, or tinting, is the process of giving trees additional green color,” John explained. “People may not notice it, but many varieties of pine lose their more brilliant green color each year in the fall. They are actually losing their chlorophyll. This prepares and protects them from the winter,” he said.

“Greening is done in August because the process is most successful at that time of year,” Pat added. “Then, as the trees become ready for harvest, there’s the counting and selecting.”

Final preparations include cutting, baling and shaking each tree. “Every healthy evergreen tree has a core of dead needles – usually in the center toward the stock,” Pat said. “The tree sheds these needles just as humans shed dead skin cells. We shake the Christmas trees and get rid of as many of these dead needles as possible.”

Trees are baled for transport using a twine or netting system, depending on the size of the tree.

Pat also produces evergreen Christmas wreaths, candy canes and other Christmas ornaments and crafts.

These items are on display in a heated shop near the rows of cut trees.

“This gift shop was originally a fort that my son and his friend had built in the woods. My son hauled it into the yard for me to display my crafts,” Pat said.

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