September 25, 2022
Local News

Christmas tree farms prepare for busy season amid COVID-19 pandemic

The weekend after Thanksgiving often is the busiest time for Christmas tree farms as families bundle up, pack their cars and seek out the perfect freshly cut tree to brighten up their homes.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Carol Richardson, co-owner of Richardson Christmas Tree Farm in Spring Grove, doesn’t expect this year to be any different.

“There are a lot of families, it’s tradition for them,” she said. “They have memories doing it as a child, and they want to do it with their own families. If they’re used to cutting trees the day after Thanksgiving, nothing changes that. If it’s raining or snowing, they’re here.”

Richardson said they have received a large number of calls from customers, and she expects a busy post-Thanksgiving rush. Richardson Tree Farm opened Friday and is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until Dec. 13.

Grandpa’s Christmas Tree Farm in Woodstock and Ben’s Christmas Tree Farm in Harvard also opened Friday. This year, because of the pandemic, neither will offer wagon rides for customers, according to their websites. Ben’s added an outdoor payment window in addition to the cashier station inside.

Wagons still will be used to haul trees at both sites.

Oney’s Tree Farm in Woodstock, which also opened Friday, has implemented contactless tree pickup from the fields. Handsaws are available and sanitized after each use.

The gift barn is closed; however, outside checkouts will be made available to buy wreaths, garland, centerpieces and other bundles. The bakery also was moved outside, with two windows available to place orders and two windows for pickup.

Because of the pandemic, Oney’s canceled visits with Mrs. Claus, horse-drawn wagon rides and pony rides.

Handsaws are available to use at Pine-Apple Farm in Cary, but gas-powered chain saws are not allowed.

“Being an outside activity, with plenty of room to roam our farm and select a tree, we feel blessed that this tradition can continue but will offer the following added precautions,” according to the Pine-Apple Farm website, which then lists new safety measures.

Moehling Christmas Tree Farm in Woodstock will use one-way traffic for customers buying their trees, and they will not serve hot chocolate this year to prevent crowds. There also will be a limit of 10 people in the craft area, according to its website.

Getting a tree on a weekday, with parents working from home and many children doing e-learning, is a great option this year because weekdays likely will be less busy than weekends, Richardson said.

Wagon rides, a popular attraction for customers at Richardson Tree Farm, will run daily, with staff members sanitizing the wagons and all contact surfaces. Additional picnic tables will be put outside, and food trucks will be available.

The gift shop still will be open, too, with masks required. Hot chocolate, doughnuts, fudge, kettle corn, bows, wreaths and table pieces also are available. To make room and ensure safety, all of the seating from inside areas was removed. A staff member at all times will monitor crowd sizes, Richardson said.

Richardson said hand-sanitizing and -washing stations are placed throughout the grounds, while staff complete daily COVID-19 symptom checks before work. Masks are required inside, during wagon rides and whenever visitors cannot maintain social distancing from people who are not in their immediate group.

Richardson Christmas Tree Farm will have more pre-cut trees available for customers, with free shaking and baling. All cut-your-own trees at Richardson’s are $79 plus tax – for all heights and sizes. White pine, Concolor fir, Douglas fir and Norway spruce are available, as well as some Fraser fir and Canaan fir, according to the website. More than 50,000 trees are spread across 75 acres.

Richardson said the farm had its most customers ever for this year’s corn maze, which started in September. She is hopeful that momentum carries over for families looking for something they can do together as Christmas nears.

“It was our best year ever, but we did have some really nice weather, so I think that probably had something to do with it, too,” she said. “More people are staying home for Christmas and maybe wanting a real tree this year. It’s been a tough year; we’re just hoping we can work with as many people, and there aren’t too many people out at one time.

“There may be things we have to adjust [this year], but we expect quite a few customers.”