HARTSBURG — Some like a sparse one, some like a fat one, some like a skinny one, but of the families that come out to Timber View Tree Farm, they all like a fresh Christmas tree.
“It is kind of an individual thing what people are looking for in a tree,” said Daryll Raitt, the owner of the farm. “Everybody has a little bit different theory about how to tell a good tree.”
Since 1969, Raitt has grown mainly Scotch pine because the species does well in this climate. He also raises White pine by using irrigation. Noble fir is shipped in from North Carolina, and Fraser fir is shipped from Michigan.
Buying a Christmas tree at the farm at 5301 E. Raitt Road is often a family activity. Families take a hayride and stroll around outdoors even in cold weather.
“In our operation, we are not really selling trees,” Raitt said. “We’re selling experience.”
People tend to come back every year for such experiences. Steve Witzig of Columbia came to the farm Sunday for the second time with his wife, Mandy, and two children, Teagan and Annie.
“We enjoyed spending time together out on the field,” Steve Witzig said. “We liked a hayride.”
Despite the recent economic downturn, families carry on with the tradition.
“They like going out and finding their own trees,” Daryll's wife, Mary Lou, said. “We have generations coming back, and the second generations coming back.”
On Saturday, 172 were returning customers. “Guess what? A year ago, we sold 172 trees on that day,” Daryll Raitt said. Last year, 900 trees were sold during the season.
Once families find their trees, they come back to a cozy barn to get warmed up. Inside, they chat near a stove, sipping hot chocolate and hot apple cider. Returning families take a moment in front of a picture board, where their photographs, taken in a previous year, are posted.
“When we were going to build the barn, I began talking about having a hot chocolate table,” Mary Lou Raitt recalled. “But Daryll said no.” According to her, Daryll didn't want to let people hang around too long.
Today, the Raitts share a joy of interacting with customers and seeing happy families in the happy time of the year.
“It is a fun business to be in for this time of year,” Daryll Raitt said.