Ten years ago, the Balsam Ridge Christmas Tree Farm was established. The farm is located on 288 South St., Clintondale NY and offers a unique holiday experience experience, where as a customer you feel like you have entered a Forrest to select your Christmas tree. Balsam Ridge offers a variety of sizes and types of Christmas tree. These options include, Fraser Fir (most popular in United States), Balsam Fir, Concolor (aka White Fir), Cannan Fir, and Colorado Blue Spruce. I had an opportunity visit and meet with the owner, Gene to talk about the day-to-day process here at the farm.
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How has your experience been opening the farm to the public for the first time this year?
It's been great, today it has been steady all day long, we had a great opening weekend. Traditionally, the first where you see Christmas trees sold is the Friday after Thanksgiving. We have about 400/500 trees available, and that's about we plant every year. The past 10 years have been spent clearing fields, planting seedlings, weeding, fertilizing, irrigating, mowing and shearing, in the hope that you produce a marketable tree. We start with a 4 year old bare root seedling and plant usually in March. Weeding, fertilizing and irrigating occur as needed.
What's the typical day-to-day process at the farm?
Typically customers show up, we welcome them and orient them around the farm, ask what they're looking for in particular, we also ask about their ceiling height, which is something you have to think about. When you're out here in the field there is no sense of scale, so we provide our customer with measuring sticks so they can accurately choose a tree that will fit in their home accordingly. Once they find a tree that they like, they can either cut the tree themselves or we can do it for them. We found that so far the customers want the full experience, and want to do the entire process themselves, and that's fine. It's not about the tree, it's about the experience and coming together with nature, finding what you like and picking it out as a family.
What inspired you to open a Christmas tree farm?
That's an outstanding questions, and I don't know a specific answer! The truth is, I went to school for agricultural engineering so I have a degree in that. I worked for a couple of years as a milk hauler for Elmhurst Milk, and I noticed as we go from one farm to the other, it's here today and gone tomorrow, and it's really really hard work. I have no problem with hard work but making a living was rather difficult. Now, I'm a point know where I can do what I want and I don't have to worry about the farm paying the bills, and we live about an hour away and work in the area so it seemed like the right thing to do. It was originally an apple farm, this valley is the second highest apple producing state. We decided to move over to a Christmas tree farm for business in the area.
When do you guys prepare for the season?
We start planting in March before the trees are out of dormancy. We plan to plant another 500 trees this coming March and the cycle repeats. As a choose and cut tree farm, customers may borrow a hand saw and cut their own tree. Or they can ask for our assistance with cutting and dragging the tree out of the field. Either way, it is about keeping it local and the experience; of going to a local farm, interacting with the grower who produced your tree and then selecting the perfect tree for you. Other benefits are that a real tree is natural and 100% recyclable, it's fresh and it supports the local economy.
Weekly mowing continues from early Spring through the Fall. As the tree grows we shear each tree annually, beginning with the 4th year.Our opening year has been rewarding from several aspects. First, we did produce an excellent crop that our customers have responded well to. After 10 years of work and investment, the income is also welcome. However, most important is the involvement of the family in a common enterprise and that happiness that a real Christmas Tree bring to our customers and their families.
What differentiates you from other Christmas tree farms?
One differentiator for natural trees is that they're natural so they don't have the impact and environment that a plastic tree will have. It's grown here in United States, not in China and not in Canada. We don't really compete with them, in our minds it's back to the experience, so we are more interested in that and keep it real and keep it local.