Pinecrest offers holiday adventure

Published 10:20 pm Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Choosing the family Christmas tree is a family event at Pinecrest Farms in Galien.  Horse-drawn wagons, hot chocolate and 80 acres of trees lets families make a day of it.

Brita and Dick Soper started Pinecrest Farms in 1968. Their daughter, Kristine, grew up in the business, and, in 1986, their son-in-law, Craig Goodenough joined them. Now, granddaughters Kaitlin, 13, and Haley, 8, pitch in where they can.

Pinecrest Farms, below, was started by Brita and Dick Soper, as a Christmas tree farm, in 1968. Off the Water photo/ Terri Gordon

Together the family plants, grows and sells Christmas trees, wreaths and garlands. There is also a Christmas shop, stuffed with ornaments and other related Christmas decorations.

“We are pretty popular for our personalized ornaments,” Kristine said.  “We have hundreds of them available, and we personalize them in seconds, for free.  Many families will get a tree and a personalized family ornament to commemorate their outing.”

While the operation also sells precut trees, Pinecrest Farms is primarily a choose-and-cut lot. The trees are grown on property and cut only when someone walks out into the field and chooses one.

On weekends, horse-drawn hay wagons transport families to and from the field with their prized choices. People who want the full experience can cut their own trees with saws provided by Pinecrest.

“Allow a minimum of one hour,” cautioned Craig. “We have people who are here six hours. A lot of people bring their pets. We give away hot chocolate and coffee. If you need help cutting, we can help, but most people cut their own.”

Choosing a live tree allows a person to see the full shape of the tree, reduces breakage and guarantees freshness. Pinecrest puts the tree in a stand and bundles it for the ride home.  All a person has to do is set it up, water it and string it with lights.

Choosing the right tree depends, in many ways, on personal preference. Do you want soft needles or strong branches to hold ornaments?  Is the smell of the tree important to you? If the tree is to be up a long time, needle retention becomes important.

“Douglas fir is good for holding needles,” said Craig. “It has a good scent. It’s soft.  You don’t have sharp needles poking you as you hang the ornaments.”

Trees with softer needles don’t hold heavy ornaments as well, he pointed out.
Scotch pines have longer needles than the Douglas fir. They hold they needles well, but are on the sharp side. They can be messy as they are thick trees with more dead needles.

“They have been the most popular tree in the United States for years and years and years,” Craig said.

The Fraser fir is another popular tree. The needles are dark green on top and silvery underneath.

“They’re more open so the ornaments will hang on the limbs instead of like the Douglas fir, or the Scotch pine, where they lay on the outside of the tree,” Craig said.

Blue spruce offers a variety of colors to choose from, running the gamut from dusty green to blue.

“They have very sharp needles,” said Craig, “which, if you have small kids, is not a good thing. Though if you have cats, it can be a good thing —helps keep them out of the ornaments.”

Blue spruce does not retain its needles well, and, if used, should not be put up too far in advance of Christmas.
Pinecrest also grows Balsam fir, Norway spruce and Concolor fir.

A tree will stay fresher longer with just a few precautions.

First, the tree should get a good fresh cut right before it is put in the stand. Taking a half-inch off the bottom of the trunk allows for better water uptake; a tree left cut for more than 24 hours will be clogged with draining sap and have a difficult time “drinking.”

Next, the tree should be placed away from heat sources, such as fireplaces and heating ducts.

Last, the tree needs water.  Special attention should be paid when the tree is newly set up.

After it becomes hydrated, its needs will ease, though it will never quit drinking.

“You don’t want to let it run out of water — ever,” Craig said.

Pinecrest Farms, 4403 Spring Creek Rd. in Galien, is open every day, from 9 a.m.  to 6 p.m. until Dec. 23.

Call (269) 545-8125.  Also look on Facebook or go to