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Business & Economics

Farmers say raising Christmas trees takes patience

photo 1 of Tim and Claudia.jpg
Lura Roti
Claudia and Tim Wassom are the owners of Tannenbaum Tree Farm, Lennox, S.D.

Growing only about 12-inches a year, it takes patience to raise Christmas trees, explains Lennox Christmas tree farmer Tim Wassom.

“This isn’t for someone who wants instant gratification. This is for someone who can go through the long ordeal of growing something to finally get some benefit from the harvest,” Wassom says.

Harvest begins Thanksgiving weekend on the choose-and-cut Tannenbaum Tree Farm that Tim owns and operates with his wife, Claudia. Beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving the farm sees about 400 visitors eager to find and cut their perfect tree.

“Most people are excited, especially the little children,” says Claudia Wassom.

“Oh, they are very excited, it’s like it’s a big, big deal for them. And they come out and some people will spend half an hour or 45 minutes walking around looking for the tree, and I’ll say, “did you have trouble getting a tree?” and they will say, “no, we just like walking around looking at all the trees,” says Tim.

This is the case for the Brown family. Cutting down a Christmas tree together as a family is a long-standing Christmas tradition. Rob Brown.

Both myself and my wife have done it ever since we were little. Its fun. The kids have a good time. We talk about going and hunting for Christmas trees. Everyone gets their own opinion, and you can see it, what it looks like when it’s all out, instead of when it’s wrapped in plastic and you can’t get a true idea of what the shape will be or if it will have big holes somewhere. When you cut it down like that, you see what you’re going to get,” says Rob Brown.

Although everyone agrees that mom, Laura, gets the final say about which tree will go home with them, the kids enjoy hunting for the perfect tree. 12-year-old Elleh Brown.

“It’s more fun to go out with your family and get to look around. Christmas is more of a time to spend with family,” says Elleh Brown.

And there are a lot of trees to look at – Fraser Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce, Meyer Spruce, Black Hills Spruce, Serbian Spruce, Scotch and White Pine. The Wassoms plant about 1,000 trees on every acre of the seven-acre farm.

“The seedlings, we plant where a tree has been cut down, we plant a seedling right next to it,” says Claudia.

Once the trees are planted Claudia and Tim spend the spring, summer, and fall days protecting the trees from insects, controlling weeds and trimming the young branches by hand so that they grow into shapely trees deserving of decoration.

“They have to be trained and shaped and you have to be proactive when you are doing it. You need to visualize, “if I make this cut, how is it going to affect the tree?” If I do this kind of treatment, how will it help the tree, months or years down the road?” It all makes a difference in what you are doing,’” Tim says.

Tim planted his first Christmas trees more than 30 years ago. A horticulturist by trade, he saw a niche for a choose and cut Christmas tree farm in Southeastern South Dakota and thought he’d give it a try.

Around the same time Tim got started in the Christmas tree business, he met Claudia. The couple worked together at the same Sioux Falls nursery.

“Originally, I am from Germany, and I came here on an agricultural exchange program, and I met Tim and we fell in love. And that’s our story,” says Claudia.

The name of their tree farm pays homage to Claudia’s German heritage.

“The tree farm is Tannenbaum. And the funny thing is, some people think it is our last name. They ask, “are you Mr. and Mrs. Tannenbaum?” No, it’s not, but when you explain it is the German word for Christmas tree, and the song “O Tannenbaum,” and then it usually rings a bell for them,’” says Claudia.

When it comes to selecting a tree for their Christmas celebration, Claudia says she and Tim are typically the last to cut one down. The couple typically waits until Christmas Eve.