McKinney, her husband and children are now part of the hunt for the “perfect” tree every year. It’s a tradition that means even more to her because of the time she spent helping out on her aunt’s tree farm when she was a kid — planting, shaping and later selling trees.
“It’s a tradition I will treasure because I experienced first-hand the hard work that goes into owning and operating a tree farm,” McKinney said. “Seeing the families that came to my aunt’s tree farm to carry on traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation.”
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, 22.34 million real Christmas trees were purchased in 2022. The largest percentage of those trees (30.8 percent) were bought at choose and cut farms.
“We usually go right after Thanksgiving, so it is a perfect kick off to the Christmas season,” said Elizabeth Barrentine of Oakwood. “It’s usually not too cold yet and it’s a great day to be out in nature and can be followed up with coffee or hot cocoa by the fireplace as we get out the Christmas decorations.”
The challenge of the search, the excitement of finding the just-right tree and the fun of decorating — cutting down your own tree creates new memories and celebrates memories of holidays long past.
With close to 15,000 farms growing Christmas trees across the country — many in and around the Miami Valley — a freshly-cut tree is likely just a short drive away. Most tree farms have saws to lend and offer wrapping to simplify the tree-cutting adventure.
So, whether you’re looking for thin or bushy, long needles or short, let the cutting begin. The following guidelines are courtesy of the National Christmas Tree Association.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT A CHOOSE AND CUT FARM
Be aware of possible farm hazards
Most tree farms keep their fields very well groomed, but there are some things that are beyond the farmer’s control. Be careful of fire-ant mounds, tree stumps, an occasional blackberry vine, uneven ground and sharp saws.
Go to the farm prepared for a day in the country
Wear comfortable shoes and old clothes. Bring rain gear if the weather is threatening. The “cutter downers” and the “loader uppers” should also have gloves. Don’t forget the camera.
Equipment to bring
Saws are usually provided by the farm operator. Call ahead to check if you need to bring any supplies.
Some farms measure and price trees individually, others sell them by the foot. Ask about the pricing policy before heading out in the field.
Head out to the field and select the tree that fits your predetermined needs. Check the trunk to be sure that it is sufficiently straight. Keep in mind that pines will usually have, at least, some crook in their trunks. Also check that the tree has a sufficiently long handle to accommodate your stand.
In the fall all conifers drop or shed a certain portion of their oldest needles. This is a normal part of the life cycle of the tree and occurs because the tree is preparing itself for winter. Most farms provide shaking or blowing services so that you will depart with a clean tree.
Cutting your tree down
Cutting the tree is easiest as a two-person project. The “cutter downer” usually lies on the ground while the helper holds the bottom limbs up. While the cut is being made, the helper should tug on the tree lightly to ensure that the saw kerf remains open, and the saw does not bind. The tugging force should be applied to the side of the tree opposite the cut.
Bring the tree to the processing area where it will be cleaned and netted. Netting makes transporting and handling the tree substantially easier.
AREA TREE FARMS
John T. Nieman Nursery
Location: 3215 New London Road, Hamilton
Trees: This family-run nursery grows more than 60,000 trees on the 125-acre farm including blue spruce, Norway spruce, white pine, Leland cypress and Canaan fir.
Extras: The Christmas Barn has wreaths, swags, roping and arrangements as well as complimentary hot chocolate and cookies.
Hours: Open daily Nov. 18-Dec. 23; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays. Field closes at dark but pre-cut lot is lit.
More info: Visit www.johnniemannursery.com or the John T Nieman Nursery on Facebook.
Big Tree Plantation
Location: 2544 South Waynesville Road, Morrow
Trees: Canaan firs are the No. 1 selling cut-your own tree at the Morrow farm. Big Tree also has live trees ready for planting and pre-cut tree varieties include Fraser and balsam fir, white pine, blue and Black Hills spruce.
Extras: The Christmas Gift Barn has plenty of holiday decorations, wreaths and unique gifts. The Little Tree Kids Shop is designed for young shoppers with elves ready to help and inexpensive items. Santa will be visiting from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 24-26.
Hours/more info: For complete list of daily hours for field cutting, tree barn, gift barn and café visit www.bigtreeplantation.com.
Berninger Christmas Trees and Wreaths
Location: 1220 Stubbs Mill Road, Lebanon
Trees: For more than a half century, the family-owned business has offered cut-your-own and pre-cut Christmas trees including Scotch pines, white pines and Canaan firs. Cut-your own trees are $52.
Extras: All trees are shaken and wrapped; trunks are drilled upon request. Don’t forget your free popcorn and handmade ornament.
Hours: Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 24-26 and Dec. 1-3 (weather permitting)
More info: Visit http://berningertreesandwreaths.com/ or Berninger Trees and Wreaths on Facebook.
Red Barn Tree Farm
Location: 990 Soldiers Home Rd., Miamisburg
Trees: A limited number of cut-your-own trees — mostly Fraser and Balsam firs and white pine — are available as well as pre-cut Fraser firs from North Carolina.
Extras: Garland, wreaths and Christmas crafts. Don’t miss a visit with Santa on Nov. 26.
Hours: Weekends only, 10 a.m. until dusk
More info: Visit Red Barn Tree Farm on Facebook