It’s that time of year when the holidays are just around the corner. A fun, traditional way to start off the season is to take a trip to visit a Christmas tree farm. The beautiful scenery, brisk air, smell of the evergreen, and joy of choosing and harvesting your own tree fresh from the field is sure to lift you right into the spirit of the holidays.
There are many Christmas tree farms in the Little Finger Lakes area, particularly along the eastern side of Livingston County, where the morning sun hits the west side of hills at just the right angle for growing the trees. One such farm, unique in that it is the only one run by a mother-daughter team, is the All Western Evergreen Christmas Tree Farm on Liberty Pole Road in Springwater. The farm, run by Katherine Humphrey and her daughter, Jerrianne Scheiderich, has its Christmas tree plantation high on a hill overlooking the beautiful valley of the Town of Springwater below.
Katherine started the farm with her husband, Bill Humphrey, in 1968, just two years after they married. Bill had grown up on the farm, and had first been a dairy farmer there with his father, Theodore. After Theodore passed away in 1966, the land was added to and divided among Bill and his two brothers, Roger and Herb. Soon Bill and Katherine built a house on his acreage, and started growing seedlings from seeds of trees found only in the western part of the U. S., and they named their farm All Western Evergreen Nursery and Christmas Tree Farm.
For many years Bill and Katherine worked together growing and selling seedlings from their nursery, then, eventually, the trees from the plantation fields, which take 7 to 10 years to grow full-size. They also became active members of many Christmas tree organizations-such as The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York (CTFANY), and the Exotic Conifer Association and often attended training sessions at their conventions to learn more.
Sadly, Bill passed away in 2009, leaving Katherine to run the farm, but she is not alone; their daughter Jerrianne, who grew up on the farm and now lives three hours away in Lee Center, New York, with her husband and two children, makes the trip most weekends to help out at the farm. “Jerrianne knows how to run most all of the machinery,” says Katherine. They are concentrating on culturing trees from plugs grown from their seed at Van’s Pines Nursery in Michigan and are downsizing the nursery part of their business, as that was more what Bill had enjoyed and had been skilled to do.
They employ a team of five young local high school and college students who work Saturdays from April through December and three days a week in July and August, doing whatever needs to be done at the time: fertilizing, digging, planting, shearing, repairing equipment, and giving excellent customer service during the weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Over 100 young people have now worked on this farm over the years.
“This is a part-time farm, we all work part-time,” says Katherine. However, she herself not only works on the farm, but still is an active member of the Christmas tree associations. She serves on the Board of CTFANY, and, as Communications Chairperson, she is the editor of their quarterly publication, Real Tree Talk, and regularly contributes articles to NCTA’s American Christmas Tree Journal. She gives talks and tours, co-writes the weekly Springwater Party Line on the Town of Springwater’s website: www.townofspringwaterny.org. She also still works for Cornell Cooperative Extension as a food preservation expert, and participates in the Trees for Troops program.
And, Katherine often answers inquiries and fills orders from near and far due to their having a website: www.allwesterntrees.com. Last month she was surprised to receive a request for boughs from Martha Stewart Living magazine to use in a photo shoot for a Christmas tree story they are doing for their upcoming Christmas issue. She sent the boughs and also a wreath (which Katherine picked up at a national meeting in Ohio, made by Carolyn Leege of Idaho). Subsequently, both Katherine and Jerrianne were interviewed by the person who is actually writing the story.
In the fall, the activity picks up as the holiday season draws near. In the weeks prior to Thanksgiving, Katherine and Jerrianne work full-time as the wholesale orders start coming in. Under Jerrianne’s supervision, a team of five strong adult workers are hired to help for a five-day week or two, depending on the number of wholesale orders, in addition to the youth crew working on the weekends. Katherine does the inside work, as the crews look forward to homemade soup and sandwich lunches with ice cream for dessert. Katherine says, “The wholesale customers come into the plantations with me to tag the trees they want. Jerrianne sees that those orders are accurate and the customer receives what they marked. We cut the trees and fill each order separately at one time-that way they don’t get mixed up.” After the crew harvests the trees, they bale and load them upright into basket wagons, and take them to the loading yard behind the house for the buyer to pick up. The average harvest is 150 trees per day.
The All Western Evergreen Christmas Tree Farm is located at 6840 Liberty Pole Road in Springwater, and is open on Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sundays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., or weekdays by appointment, between Thanksgiving and Christmas. To make an appointment or for more information, call 585-669-2659, or visit the website at:
Katherine speaks about her late husband, Bill, to the Livingston County Agriculture Tour group, hosted by the Genesee Valley Conservancy, who visited the farm recently in September. Click the image to enlarge.
Jerrianne and her assistant, Aaron Colligan, demonstrate shearing techniques to the group. Click the image to enlarge.
Katherine and Jerrianne talk about tree harvesting as the group tours the plantation. Click the image to enlarge.
Diane Olson is the Editor & Publisher of The Lake Country Weekender,
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