Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit with one of the owners of McConnell Nursery in New Castle, Pa. The farm was established in 1975. Two of the farm owner’s three children attended Penn State and returned to be a part of the family operation.
You may not know this, but the Christmas tree that will adorn your living room was likely planted five to eight years ago. It was cared for to ensure it was a nice, straight, full tree to your liking.
Trees are planted in spring and fall. They don’t do well if they are planted in the heat of summer.
Jen Short, a daughter of the McConnell Nursey owners, explained that there was work to do throughout the year. For example, during the hot months, the trees are sheared so they have the desired shape by fall.
Most of the trees are planted using equipment, but on the hilly ground each tree is planted by hand.
As the McConnells prepare for the busy Christmas tree buying season, they make wreaths, pine ropes and other items to sell in their shop. Their customers come for the experience of buying their own Christmas tree from the farm.
Trees growing near the shop are available for cut-your-own or are selected to be cut. It was a wonderful afternoon learning about how a tree farm works and to see how they care for the crop, as well as their customers.
For many families, going to get the Christmas tree is part of their holiday traditions. Many years ago, I met a woman who was part of the Alaska Women in Timber group. She was seeking sole mates in agriculture and attended an American Agri-Women’s meeting, of which I was a member.
While there, she was thrilled to learn how all sorts of crops were grown across the country. Near the end of the meeting, she talked about how much she valued the support she had received for the struggles of the timber industry. Her crop was trees, and like many crops she learned about that week, it has a rotation. Only her crop rotation is 100 years.
My Alaskan friend shared her story every summer on Alaskan cruise ships with the nonfarm public. What a great venue for telling the story of her state and the timber industry from the perspective of a grower and harvester.
We are approaching a wonderful time of year. It is all about family and friends. We also need to be thinking of ways our families can help others. A young man we met told us about how his family would put together gift cards and drop them off secretly at the homes of people they knew who could use some help. It was something that brought the real Christmas spirit to his family.
We belong to several organizations that do food and toy collections for agencies that work with families in need. We learned recently that there are more older people in need than families with children who need toys. We will be filling a shopping tote bag with nonperishable foods that will include the ingredients to make a couple of meals.
Think about what traditions your family has. Do you remember when these traditions started? Have the traditions changed over the years?
As families grow and move, from having children to hosting young adults to enjoying grandchildren, traditions morph. Traditions like trimming the tree or baking cookies may not look the same, but they still are in the hearts of all the family members.
I send best wishes as we enter another holiday season.
Be careful, give to others while you care for yourself, and enjoy the season.
Gregg writes from western Pennsylvania. She is the Pennsylvania 2019 Outstanding Woman in Agriculture and is a past president of American Agri-Women.