Whenever customers arrive at Larson Family Farm in Sandwich, Rhonda Larson asks them if they’d been there before.
“If they have, I don’t have to talk as much,” Larson joked. “But if they say no, then I have to tell them how to get down to the trees, how to get back, where to put their tree, park here. I’ve had a lot of people who said it was their first time or they’ve cut trees before but not here.”
Larson said she’s been getting customers from Chicago and the suburbs.
“What I have noticed on (Nov. 27) talking to people is they seem to be coming from farther away,” Larson said. “I think there people are wanting to get out with their families because they feel it’s safer.”
Larson said her farm sold as many trees opening day last year as it did in 2019, and she’s predicting this year could be among their best, joining 2016 and 2017 when there was good weather combined with a local competitor closed due to a lack of inventory.
The farm sold out of all the wreaths Steve Larson made for opening weekend on the first day.
“I honestly believe when we get to the end of our season, things may be better this year than back in 2016 or 2017, because we have had a lot of new people come,” Larson said.
Sales have been strong at Christmas tree businesses across the area.
Ronnie Baudino from B&B Christmas Trees in Ottawa said sales are ahead of last year after opening weekend.
“Right now, sales are very brisk,” Baudino said. “We had a fantastic weekend last weekend. I think everybody just wants to get out and do something positive.
"We’ve been in business over 30 years, and we have a pretty good customer base. We’re seeing people earlier this year than in the past. A lot of people we normally wouldn’t see until this weekend or the following weekend have already been here to pick trees up.”
Holocker Tree Farm in McNabb posted on its Facebook page Nov. 27 was “definitely our busiest opening day to date.” The farm closed its fields to customers cutting down their own trees but will sell pre-cut trees until Friday before closing for the season.
“Due to an overwhelming number of people on opening weekend, the fields are officially closed for the season,” Holocker Tree Farm posted on Facebook.
With customers coming early this season, Baudino feels sales could slow down in the coming weeks.
“In a town our size, we’re only going to sell so many trees whether we sell them this week or next week,” Baudino said. “I think it will average out over the season.
“I think sales are going to be up overall for the year, but how much is hard to say. We’ll know more in a couple weeks.”
Baudino said B&B will stay open until it runs out of trees, and while he has access to more trees at this time, he hesitates to get more.
“We can still purchase trees for another week or so, but (our suppliers) only cut so many trees,” Baudino said. “The guys raising trees are out 10-12 years on inventory. We won’t go cut into next year’s crop, because if we do, we’ll cut into next year. We want to keep everything on an even keel from year to year.”
Larson Family Farm, meanwhile, will stay open until Dec. 19.
“This is our 30th year cutting trees,” Larson said. “We have 19 acres of trees planted. We plant about 1,500 per year. Of that lot, 500-600 die between the time we plant and the time we cut.
"We have plenty of trees. We never stop planting no matter what.”