For some families, finding that perfect, real Christmas tree is a time-honoured tradition each December.
Through his tree farm on Pringles Side Road, Gale Rogers not only nourishes that treasured activity, he feels like his visitors have become part of his extended family and his holiday routine.
“I enjoy being out here and seeing the generations come with more young people coming,” he said. “It goes back to the early days with my own children. Now I have grandchildren coming and other people have grandchildren coming,” he said.
He fondly lists the families that come back year after year and describes how some of them have decorated their prized acquisitions.
Nearly 30 years ago, Rogers started planting the trees on a farm that spans about 60 acres. His children were growing strawberries at home to make a little spending money and he thought they could expand their business.
In those early days, it was Scotch pines that everyone was after, but now visitors seem to prefer varieties like white spruce, blue spruce, or Norway spruce. Some even opt for the white pines that Rogers planted to diversify his forest.
Each year, he opens the property on weekends in December to allow families to cut their own trees. Rogers and some assistants — families who wanted to give back — help direct people find what they’re looking for. In some cases, they’ll even help with the cutting.
Colin Friel brought his boys Declan and Cain to help this year after the boys expressed an interest in helping. He said they’ve been returning for about 12 years for their trees and they’ve made a lot of good memories in the process.
Between 100-150 trees are taken each year and Rogers always replants. Depending on species, the trees can take between five and 10 years to mature to be ready for their big function. Each June, Rogers prunes the trees to encourage that growth.
Rogers also contends that in addition to being renewable on farms, there are environmental benefit to buying real Christmas trees. They grow on land that often doesn’t sustain other crops, they can absorb pollutants to filter air and they can also be reused as mulch.
He sells the trees for $30 each and uses the profits to replenish the lot and to help the Salvation Army. Rogers gives the organization a portion of the proceeds each year.
“I think they’re noted for helping people at Christmas time. They help people year-round, too, ” he said. “They have a need at Christmas to buy food for people who need it. This augments that program for them.”
People who visit are also welcomed to visit a small log cabin at the lot that Rogers built himself. There, they can get warm by the fire and enjoy some hot refreshments.
Roadside signage will help visitors find the entrance to the farm.