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‘O Christmas Tree’

The season begins for cut-your-own Christmas trees

  • Carol and John Lunan of Francestown cut down their chosen Christmas tree with their son and daughter-in-law James and Jessica Lunan of Medford, Massachusetts. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Walter Kiblin assists James Lunan of Medford, Massachusetts, with bundling his family’s chosen Christmas tree at Hilltop Farm in Hancock.  Photo by Ashley Saari Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Jack Byrne of Jaffrey decorates a wreath for sale at Find-Us-Farm in Hancock.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • John Lunan of Francestown cuts down his chosen Christmas tree at Hilltop Farm in Hancock, while his son, James Lunan of Medford, holds it steady.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Boy Scout Troop 2 members Jesse Kiblin, 11, and Matthew Colby, 12, assist a customer by carrying their fresh-cut Christmas tree to their vehicle at Hilltop Farm in Hancock.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Walter Kiblin and Boy Scout Troop 2 members Matthew Colby, 12, and Jesse Kiblin, 11, assist the Lunan family with bundling their Christmas tree for transport at Hilltop Farm in Hancock.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Catey McCann, Pier Pennoyer and Chase Pennoyer search out the perfect Christmas tree at Find-Us-Farm in Hancock.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Catey McCann and Pier Pennoyer eye a possible candidate for the family Christmas tree at Find-Us-Farm in Hancock.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Sheldon Pennoyer of Greenfield tags a Christmas tree picked out by his family, marking it as reserved for later pick-up. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Sheldon Pennoyer of Greenfield measures prospective Christmas trees to see if they will fit in the family home at Find-Us-Farm in Hancock.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Chase Pennoyer advocates for his choice of a family Christmas tree at Find-Us-Farm in Hancock.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The Pennoyer family of Greenfield, including Sheldon Pennoyer, Penelope Beal, Catey McCann, Pier Pennoyer, Kelly Buchanan, Chase Pennoyer, and Rusty, stand by their carefully selected family Christmas Tree at Find-Us-Farm in Hancock.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, November 28, 2018 11:9AM

For the Pennoyer-Beal family, it’s down to three choices.

The tape measurer comes out, dimensions are discussed, hints about favorite choices are dropped, alliances are quickly solidified and a vote is taken.

It’s a split decision, but the family has chosen their Christmas tree.

“We got this done in under an hour. That’s pretty good for us,” admits Penelope Beal, in satisfaction, as her husband, Sheldon Pennoyer, ties orange markers on their chosen tree.

“The smell of a live tree – you can’t beat it,” Pennoyer said.

The family found their Christmas centerpiece at Find-Us-Farm in Hancock, a cut-your-own Christmas tree operation owned by George Lohmiller. Like many tree farms, Find-Us-Farm opened the weekend following Thanksgiving, and will be selling trees up until Christmas.

Lohmiller, who runs Our Town Landscaping for most of the year, said the Christmas tree farm has been a side business for about 30 years.

Lohmiller has been running the tree farm since its start, though he said his true start as a Christmas tree salesman began when he was 12. His father would help him cut down a dozen or so trees from the land where he now has his farm and he would sell them in his home state of Massachusetts for $5 a piece.

His own trees, he said, always came from his grandparent’s land, too. Now, he tends about three acres of seedlings and trees, and is planting between 200 and 500 more a year.

“Sale time is short, but it’s year-round work,” Lohmiller said at his farm during his opening weekend.

Seedlings are ordered in winter, planted in April, and pruned at least once during the year. Planning is long-term, since getting a tree from seedling to the 6 to 7 foot preferred height takes anywhere from seven to 15 years, with 10 being the average.

“You can’t just put the trees in and walk away. It’s an investment of time and money,” said Jack Byrne of Jaffrey, a gardener for Our Town Landscaping, who assists with decorating wreaths at Find-Us-Farm in the Christmas season.

Each year, 27.4 million households choose a cut Christmas tree, 27 percent of which are from choose-and-cut farms, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

In New Hampshire, cut Christmas trees was a growing agricultural business, according to surveys done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2007 and 2012, the most recent survey available. In 2012, New Hampshire had 248 Christmas tree farms, and 3,243 acres of trees. Over 131,000 were sold that year, all numbers which were up from what was reported in 2007.

For many people, choosing and cutting their tree is an annual tradition.

Carol Lunan of Francestown was with her family looking for a Christmas tree in Hancock this weekend – a family affair which included her now-grown son.

“This was one of the pre-requisites to get the kids to come over on Christmas – that we have a real tree,” Lunan said.

Mary and Jeff Brown, who own Hilltop Farm in Hancock, purchased the cut-your-own business in 2011, from the former owners, Gina and Joe Marrion, who had owned and operated the business for 20 years before them. They were looking specifically for someone who was interested in taking up the mantle, Mary Brown said Sunday.

“We used to come up here every year to cut a tree,” Brown said. “I never thought I’d live here. It is just beautiful here. It’s like another world.”

Bob and Gina Lucas of Stoddard were at Hilltop, choosing their Christmas tree. A live tree is a definite tradition for them, Bob Lucas said, but this is the first year they’ve had the opportunity to saw down their own tree.

“We’re New Hampshire-ites, we’ve got to have a real tree,” he said. “But we’ve never been to a farm that lets you cut your own before. I like this experience better.”

That’s an opinion many people that like live trees share, said Brown.

“When you cut your own tree, it’s as fresh as you’re going to get. A pre-cut tree may have been cut weeks before. And, cutting your own tree, you get the family experience, which is what most people really enjoy about it.”

Cut-Your-Own Christmas Trees in the region

Hilltop Farm Christmas Trees

61 Norway Hill, Hancock, NH. Open weekends.

Find-Us-Farm

70 Elmwood Road, Hancock

Open daily, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Paradise Farm

468 Center Road, Lyndeborough

Dec. 2, Dec. 9, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Miracle Acres Farm

523 Mason Road, Milford

Saturdays, 9 a.m.-dark or by appointment

Monadnock View Farm

Aldrich Rd., Keene

Thursday-Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Wrights Tree Farm

607 Hurricane Rd., Keene

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.