Area Tree Farms Provide Holiday Cheer in Midst of COVID-19

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Kevin Murphy

DANE COUNTY–The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped Christmas tree sellers from putting a little Ho, Ho, Ho into the holiday season.

Wanting their customers to feel safe while enjoying a traditional Yuletide experience, they’ve adopted public health guidelines for businesses and gatherings

“We got the hang of it during our fall season, our busy season,” said Chris Krisch, of Enchanted Valley Acres, 5047 Enchanted Valley Rd., Cross Plains.

The fall corn mazes and pumpkin patch gives way to cut-your-own and selecting pre-cut Fraser Fir, Balsam and other evergreen tree species beginning with a “soft opening” on Nov. 23, a few days before Thanksgiving.

Enchanted Valley’s employees wear masks for all customer contacts, receive daily health checks and frequently sanitize hay wagons, tables and other “high-touch” areas. Sanitizers are stationed throughout the farm.

Customers, age five and up, are required to wear masks in buildings, barns, on wagon rides, while in line for concessions, payment and when unable to socially distance from other individuals.

Pre-cut trees are available close to the entrance, also in the valley, which is a short walking distance from the entrance and in the North Pole, which is reachable by a wagon ride that continually operates during weekends, Krisch said.

Passengers on wagon rides are spaced six feet apart and Kirsch is planning on providing other “barriers” on the wagons to ensure social distancing.

“We want our visitors to have a safe, enjoyable experience,” he said.

Tree prices are largely unchanged from last year, Enchanted Valley’s first year of selling Christmas trees. Prices begin at $50 for pre-cut trees, but some are less depending on size and quality, he said.

Jensen Trees, 507 Valley View Rd., Town of Middleton, is in its 54th year of selling Christmas trees and its first following COVID guidelines established by the National Christmas Tree Association and the Centers for Disease Control, said Lance Jensen.

“We will wear masks and ask customers to wear them as they’re able.” he said.

Customers can stay “100 percent” outdoors while selecting a pre-cut or cutting their own tree and paying by credit card, Jensen said.

There are also two sheds of pre-cut trees to select from.

Saws are sanitized after each use, hand sanitizers are available, only two customers are allowed in the gift shop at a time, and gift shop countertops are sanitized after every sale.

The indoor gift shop offers wreathes, garland, tree stands and ornaments where masks are required by county emergency orders.

“People want to come and pick out their tree and we’ll make arrangements for foot and vehicle traffic flow to stay as ordered as possible to maintain a safe time for everybody,” he said.

Employees will trim, shake, bale and affix your tree to your vehicle.

It takes eight to 10 years to grow a marketable Christmas tree in Wisconsin, Jensen said, and he relies on his son, Jacob, to help with annual pruning and readying the trees for sale.

In recognition of the tough economic times associated with the pandemic, Jensen said he is holding the line on prices this season. 

His “discount trees” are priced $20-$32 and spruce, pine, Fraser Fir, balsam trees are priced from $48-$82.

“A lot of things have gone up in price this year, and our hope is that people can get a good tree and have a good experience getting it without suffering high price increases,” he said.

Summers Christmas Tree Farm opens for its 63rd year on Nov. 27 with its employees donning red face masks with a white Christmas tree logo, said Judy Summer’s co-owner.

“We’ll also have hand sanitizers around the farm and in the Christmas Shop and encourage social distancing where needed,” she said.

Customers can cut or select a pre-cut tree and pay for it outdoors at a sliding window in the Christmas Shop building. Summers called that a new feature for those who want to remain outdoors during their visit.

“People are already adjusting to social distancing when they’re out, which is good, and we people will wear masks when they’re in close contact with others,” Summers said.

Garland and wreathes are available inside the Christmas Shop.

Pre-cut trees will be displayed under a roof overhang to shelter them and customers, she said.

Prices for pre-cut trees are individually set while you-cut fir and spruce trees are $70 and pines are $55, she said.

Employees will bale trees with twine and assist tying them to your car, she said.

If families are at home and looking for a seasonal outing, Summers suggested bringing the children out on a weekday to get a tree as an alternative to busier weekends.

“We’ll be open every day up to Christmas Eve from 8 5 p.m. but this is a year when a weekday versus a weekend trip isn’t a bad idea,” she said.

Summers has about 150 acres of fir, spruce and other pine species in various stages of growth on their farm at 4610 Rocky Dell Rd., Town of Middleton. 

“People give up a lot of things this year (because of COVID-19) but hopefully Christmas is something they’ll want to keep,” she said.

Wisconsin is the nation’s fifth-largest Christmas tree producer, with an annual harvest of more than 600,000 trees valued at more than $16 million. There are more than 850 Christmas tree farms in the state, covering approximately 23,300 acres, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

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