Santa piled presents under artificial trees for Heather Wright and Rob Boire when they were growing up.
“I think that’s why I always wanted a real tree,” said Boire, bundled up against Sunday’s cold, windy weather.
They found it at Magee’s Christmas Tree Farm on Fiske Road in West Chazy.
Eyeballing the options as they drove along, Wright and Boire stopped just before circling back to the driveway. Walking through a patch of trees, the couple came across a mid-sized one tucked away in a corner.
Though average height, it was wide with no dead limbs or bare patches.
“The point was to find a relatively fat tree,” Wright said.
Cutting through the trunk with a handsaw provided by the farm, Boire hoisted the tree onto his shoulder to carry back and secure on top of his Chevrolet Tahoe.
The evening marked Wright’s first visit to a cut-your-own style tree farm. Though she had wished it were a bit warmer, Wright enjoyed the experience of searching for a tree in the wilderness.
“It’s much cooler than going to Lowe’s,” she said.
FUN IN THE FOREST
Operating since 1975, Magee’s offers roughly 5,000 trees for customers to browse through and cut down.
They are given a handsaw and sent on their way to walk or drive through the forest of balsam, blue spruce and Fraser fir.
Farm owner and operator Roy Magee said he thinks it’s the desire to walk through a forest that keeps customers coming back.
“They spend sometimes an hour, two hours here,” he said.
Maintaining his forest is Magee’s favorite part of operating the farm. A former electrical engineer, he said he had always wanted to be a farmer and enjoys spending his summers mowing and trimming around the trees.
“At Christmastime, I usually hide in the house and let the grandchildren sell the trees,” he said.
Magee’s grandchildren help to greet customers, hand out the saws and collect payment for the trees.
Some other tree farmers base the pricing of their produce on height, but Magee prefers keeping the system simple.
Any tree costs $35, regardless of size, though he said discounts are sometimes negotiated for very small trees.
For $15, customers can also buy wreaths that are custom-made by Magee’s son Gary and decorated by Magee’s wife, Marilyn.
Sales have been good this year, Magee said, with hundreds of trees already sold barely a week after Thanksgiving.
People seem to start buying trees earlier every year; Magee thinks the later Thanksgiving date and shorter Christmas season this year might be a cause of the strong sales.
A shorter holiday season is also pinpointed as a cause of good sales at Moody Tree Farm on County Highway 55 in Saranac Lake.
“Right after Thanksgiving, everyone wanted their trees, even a few trees before Thanksgiving, just because it was later this year,” farm manager Bobby Clifford said.
Moody Farm offers 15 acres of trees for customers to cut themselves, along with roughly 2,000 pre-cut trees. The cost is $6 per foot.
While embracing the old-fashioned tradition of cut-your-own tree, Moody Farm also offers online ordering for products ranging from wreaths to center piece to balsam firs up to 6 feet in height.
“We get calls out in California and even out in Hawaii,” Clifford said.
Yet for the farm’s local market, he believes it’s the idea of going to a neighborhood business for a home-grown tree that appeals to a lot of customers.
“Everyone’s staying within the area; everyone’s wanting a tree from the Adirondack Mountains,” Clifford said.
CUT YOUR OWN
Find local Christmas tree farms at: http://tinyurl.com/oan2efs