FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – From trinkets to trees, Black Friday shopping isn’t just contained to the stores. It’s spread to Christmas tree farms, too. The owners of St. Joe Christmas Tree Farm in Fort Wayne said the day after Thanksgiving has quickly become their busiest of the season.
“Next weekend used to be the busiest weekend, by far, until last year. Last year, we were slammed the day after Thanksgiving. This year, by 11:00, we were slammed. We thought it was just a fluke last year, we really did. It was a sunny day, it was the latest Thanksgiving could be, and it was insane. So, it happened again this year, so maybe this is the new trend,” owner of St. Joe Christmas Tree Farm, Judy Reifenberg, said.
It’s a trend that’s changed since the Reifenberg family planted its first tree nearly two decades ago.
“About 18 years ago, Mike and I decided we wanted to buy some property. We had four boys. We always wanted to get a business together and do it together. We had been buying our trees here and we were out looking for property on Flutter Road and saw Ed’s Tree Farm was for sale. My husband said we can do this, we can do this, and I’m like you’re out of your mind,” Reifenberg said.
Thus, the St. Joe Christmas Tree Farm was born.
“We literally couldn’t afford five acres so we bought fifty and a business,” Reifenberg said.
A risky move that’s still spreading smiles 16 years later. Tess and Colton Storey’s family has been coming to the farm for eight years.
“Well, we just look around at these trees and we pick out a nice one that Mom likes,” Tess said.
This is the third year for Brianna Witte and her family to make St. Joe’s a tradition.
“We used to not get a real Christmas tree, but then we did it for the first time and really liked it. They always look so much smaller out here then they do once they’re in your house,” Brianna said.
When it comes to finding the perfect tree, this farm has you covered. There are five varieties offered including the Frasier Fir, Douglas Fir, White Pine, Scotch Pine, and Blue Spruce. The Reifenbergs said the Frasier Fir is the most popular, and Judy isn’t upset about that.
“My favorite tree is a Frasier Fir. My husband’s favorite tree is a Douglas Fir. I usually win, though,” Judy said.
Guests can take tractor rides through the more than 20 acres of options. There’s also free hot chocolate and coffee to warm up your hands. For the grinches of the world, there’s also Christmas music and lights to do the same for your heart.
Ayden Stith and his family have picked out a tree at St. Joe’s for the last four years, but he got to check off another St. Joe Tree Farm tradition off his list on Friday.
“It was really exciting just to come here and hang out with family and to ride the train for the very first time,” Stith said.
The family plants more than 4,000 trees every year, but it takes about seven to ten years before those trees are tall enough to cut down and bring into your home.
“Probably for every two we plant, we probably get one to cutable height. We lose that many for different reasons, so it’s a lot of work, but it’s got to pay off and it’s just part of the process.” owner and Judy’s husband, Mike Reifenberg, said.
When it comes to picking out a tree, Mike can offer some advice.
“Get something that appeals to the family. I mean there’s no perfect rule as far as what should be done. You should make a fresh cut on it so it takes water better. Just make sure that you keep lots of water in the stand,” Mike said.
Jackson Weaver is five and a half. The kindergartner came to the farm with his family for the first time on Friday.
“We couldn’t find our tree. It took us a while, and then we found it. It took about 3 minutes,” Jackson said.
This Christmas magic takes a lot more than a few minutes, though.
“It is year-round work, and we call it a full-time job that we do part-time because my husband and I both work. We work year-round. When we close, we do take some time off, but we have to get all the stuff that took a month to get up down in two days. We start right in, the first week of January. It’s either paperwork or if the weather permits, we’re out there taking stumps out. We’re starting to get ready for planting. We go in to fertilizing, then we go in to pre-emergent, and then we go into mowing. We mow all summer long, and then we turn right around and start last minute fertilizing, and it just goes on and on,” Judy said.
It’s a side gig this family wouldn’t trade for the world.
“There’s a farm out there for everybody, so go visit a local farm and enjoy the season,” Judy said.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s really fun. This is the payoff when we get to have a lot of families come out and pick out a Christmas tree and hopefully have a nice time and have a good experience. There’s a lot of Christmas cards with our farm in the background and family pictures and things like that, so that part makes it really nice and special- it’s fun,” Mike said.
The farm is open Sunday through Friday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm and on Saturdays from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. They are open every day now until December 19th. If you aren’t able to go to St. Joe Christmas Tree Farm, click here for a list of other farms across the area and Indiana.