By Matt Reese
Christmas tree farms have to deal with the weather twice – once during the growing season and then again during the sales season. With just a few short weeks of marketing for Christmas trees from Thanksgiving to Christmas, the late fall/early winter weather can make or break the entire year.
Despite the soggy weather, Christmas tree sales were up for many Ohio choose-and-cut farms and sales increased nationally as well. This has been the wettest sales season we have ever had on the Reese family Christmas tree farm in Hancock County, but we were fortunate to have some nice weekend days between the incessant rainfall that flooded fields, muddied boots and made for generally miserable tree cutting conditions. We are blessed to have loyal customers, though, who were willing to brave the soggy situation and still come out to get a tree amid the mire.
It is my job to crawl underneath the trees in the mud and cut them down. As a result, I spent more time than I would prefer soaking wet, cold and muddy this year. We also had to move pre-cut trees from our sales area to higher ground twice due flooded conditions, add mountains of gravel and mulch to the mushy thoroughfares on the farm and limit any tractor traffic in the fields to prevent ruts.
We normally cut the trees down for customers and carry them to the nearest pathway where they are loaded onto a tractor-pulled wagon. The wet conditions, however, forced us to improvise. The draft horses that normally pull a wagon were used to pull sleds for carrying Christmas trees through the standing water and mud of the fields.
The rains kept falling and the creek kept rising, but even the rain and the mud was not enough to dampen the inherent Christmas spirit of our customers. Despite raincoats, wet, gloves, and unavoidable puddles, there was no shortage of happy customers and smiling faces.
And, the rain-soaked misery of slogging through muddy fields is but a minor inconvenience compared to the hardships faced by the principle parties of the first Christmas. A pregnant, scared, young mother who was an unmarried woman sought the simple comforts of a bed, but only found a crude stable. A brave man stood by his bride-to-be based only on his faith and love. And, most importantly, an innocent baby was born in the most humble of circumstances destined for a life of perfect service, hardship and the ultimate suffering and anguish on our behalf.
Such trials make a short stint in soggy socks seem quite trivial. With this in mind, there was little to do but hum a Christmas carol as the flood waters rose and the rain turned our white Christmas into more of a gooshy brown slop.
With all of the challenges in agriculture this year, it can be easy to lose sight of how blessed we are. Whether you spend these few remaining days before Christmas in the shopping mall or the combine, make sure you take time to remember the real reason for the season. Those of us in agriculture have plenty of reasons to smile this year, even if your winter wonderland is more of a swamp and the weather outside stays frightful.