Wisconsin families love a good tradition. For many it’s the annual pilgrimage to Deer Camp. Or it’s opening day tailgating at Miller Park. Traditions abound in this state—especially around the holidays—which is why this year, I decided it was time to finally partake in Wisconsin’s most popular Christmastime ritual: The Diedricks packed up the ol’ artificial tree and embarked on a quest for the perfect real Christmas tree. We were all pretty excited and my wife and I figured our daughters, aged 12 and 9, would remember these memories over what they actually received from Jolly Old St. Nick.
I didn’t have to do all the work! Here are my two girls doing some of the heavy lifting.
Little did I know, we were in for a big treat and we learned a ton along the way. For starters, did you know Wisconsin has over 1,100 Christmas Tree Farms throughout the state?! According to the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association, 66 of those offer a “cut your own” experience, and lucky for me, one is located only 2 miles from my house. So we kicked off our new family tradition at Riverside Christmas Trees in Marshall, Wis.
While it was fun with saw in hand, cutting the tree, it was also a great time getting to know the family that’s helping us create Christmas memories. The Motl family got involved in the business in 2001 but didn’t open Riverside Christmas Trees until 2009. You see, it took a whole eight years for his first crops to be ready for a holiday harvest. Alan may have started the business to rekindle a family tradition of his own. When he was young, his father had a tree business that he, along with his brother and sister, worked at growing up. And while he may have moved on and left that family business, he now feels the time is right to start a family business of his own. The decision to have a “cut your own” farm was an easy one. He said, “To have a family having fun purchasing your product; and then say ‘we’ll see you next year’, you get a feeling you did things right and the long hours were worth it.”
So perhaps you’re wondering: why cut down a tree you’re only going to use for a short period of time? Here are some facts I learned visiting Alan and Riverside Christmas Trees.
Christmas trees are a crop, not too different than corn or soybeans. Farmers plant, raise and harvest this crop year after year. For every 1 tree harvested, the Motls plant 3 more.
Tree farms are good for the environment. They provide habitat for animals and turn carbon dioxide into oxygen. At “cut your own” farms, there’s no heavy equipment harvesting the trees, and most municipalities will mulch your trees after use for landscaping use – so they’re recycled.
Tree farms create thousands of local jobs putting millions of dollars into the economy. On the other hand, 85 percent of artificial trees are made overseas, the majority of which end up in landfills.
Finally, there’s nothing like the smell of a fresh cut tree in your home around the holidays.
If it’s your first visit to a tree farm, you may be overwhelmed by the variety of Christmas trees to choose from. I went to the expert once again and asked Alan to describe each variety. Watch what he has to say in the video below:
Even though you may only think about Christmas trees after Thanksgiving, tree farming is a year-round business:
Visit the Motl Family on Facebook.
Tree farmers remove pinecones from the tree so the sap from the cones doesn’t get on the needles of the tree.
To get the top of the tree to stand straight (so you have a nice branch to put your tree topper on), farmers construct a brace on wild branches early in the growing season to train them to grow straight.
Farmers will also trim the trees to give them the best shape possible.
Like most Wisconsin crops, trees require watering and fertilizing to keep them healthy.
Thinking about bringing a real Christmas tree into your house for the holiday season? Before you run to your local Wisconsin tree farm, check out these tips to ensure you come home with the best tree possible. With a little TLC, your tree can stay lively through the end of January.
One Diedrick family tradition down! Share your holiday traditions with us in the comments below.
Chad Diedrick is the managing producer for the nation’s longest-running tourism TV show, Discover Wisconsin. In his 12+ years of discovering Wisconsin, Chad has seen virtually every corner of the state. Between filming breaks, you’re likely to catch Chad trying his hand at a round of disc golf at a local course. (His goal is to hit every disc golf course in Wisconsin!) Watch Discover Wisconsin Saturdays at 10 a.m. on FSN Wisconsin’s outdoor block.