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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Family

Harvest memories at U-Cut Christmas tree farms

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 30, 2017

For some families, the perfect Christmas tree is all about the hunt. The seasonal trek to the tree farm is an annual tradition – walking through the lines of trees, drinking hot cocoa and warming up by a fire.

“When you go to a U-cut tree farm, you’re building traditions,” said Mike Yackley, past president of the Inland Empire Christmas Tree Association and owner of Holly Lane Tree Farm.

“You find a farm you feel comfortable with and have a pleasant experience. That’s what really matters. We’ve seen marriage proposals here, baby announcements here. We get to see families grow.”

More than a dozen Spokane-area U-cut Christmas tree farms sell a variety of evergreens – from blue spruce to Douglas fir. At some farms, festivities include wagon or sleigh rides, crafts, missing elves, photo ops and booze. At others, it’s all about the trees.

Here’s a guide to some of the area’s Christmas tree farms.

Holly Lane Tree Farm

Several evergreen varieties cover 12 acres at this hillside farm in the foothills of Mt. Spokane. Mike and Paula Yackley opened Holly Lane in 2010, and it offers a small Christmas shop too.

The farm can draw 300 to 400 people on busier days, with visitors relaxing at a brick patio area with fire pit, benches and free hot cocoa. The gift shop has Paula Yackley’s handcrafted soaps. Fresh wreaths, swags and garland are sold.

There’s a stationary sleigh for photos and a table for children to write letters to Santa Claus. But people seem to most enjoy hiking the hillside to find their tree, Mike Yackley said. Among traditions, Yackley has seen people donning holiday hats and singing carols.

Some people call by November to cut a tree since well-watered ones will last far past the holidays, he said. One favorite is a grand fir. “That’s the one that smells like Christmas.”

Any tree is $60 plus tax; wreaths and other trimmings vary in price by size. Holly Lane stays open seven days a week typically closing the weekend before Christmas, but that’s weather-dependent if snow isn’t too deep. Call (509) 928-5970 or go online www.hollylanetreefarm.com.

The farm is at 14012 N. Norman Road. What’s provided: Hand saws, tarp, tree shaking and baling, large removal bag that doubles as a tree skirt.

Dietz Christmas Tree Farm

Vic Dietz first planted trees on his Green Bluff farm in 1974 and began U-cut sales in 1980. Son Jim Dietz took over the 37-year tradition after his parents retired. More than selling a tree, it’s delivering a holiday experience, said the younger Dietz, who has done farm work since age 5.

“We just grow Christmas trees, and that’s all we’ve ever done,” he said. “My parents believed you do one thing, and you do it the best you can.”

So Dietz doesn’t add in lots of extras because people over the years have created their own traditions. “You have the experience of being outdoors in the snow and searching for the perfect Christmas tree. That’s fun for families. It is a lot of fun for what you pay for the tree; it’s the memories you create.”

Dietz recognizes familiar faces among repeat customers. “Some of them have been coming out for 30 years, and now they’re bringing grandkids.”

At the farm, all trees are $56 ($58 if using a credit card). The business also sells pre-cut trees and fresh wreaths, prices vary.

Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, the Dietz farm is at 17714 N. Day Mt. Spokane Road. Check at (509) 342-1425 or website: www.dietzchristmastrees.com. What’s provided: Tree shaking and baling, hot chocolate, hand saws.

Carver Farms

Near Newman Lake, Carver Farms stays busy from strawberry season to fall’s pumpkins. After a brief break, it bursts back to life with 42 acres of U-cut Christmas trees, wreaths and a gift shop with local honey, bean soup mixes and frozen berries.

Scott Carver, co-owner, said its holiday time is “pretty farm-y,” but this year will have a Bumper Crop Coffee mobile cart. The farm makes and sells kettle corn, too, and kids get free hot cocoa or cider.

“Families enjoy coming out and spending the day, really, or half a day,” Carver said. “They can wander through 42 acres of trees and cut any tree they want. We have bonfires in our parking lot.”

A seasonal favorite is seeing kids grow from one Christmas to the next. Carver expects to see one little girl, now 8 or 9, who has come each year since a year old. She shares his wife’s name, Tamryn.

Traditions within each family also include creative ways of choosing a tree. One child might get to pick in an odd year while another will do so in an even year. Carver workers also invite people back for the next closest harvest time.

“My mom and dad set this example,” he said. “At the end of Christmas tree time, we say, ‘We’ll see you at strawberry time.’ ”

Any tree is $55, which includes shaking and baling. The farm provides saws, and measuring poles, “because the tree always doubles in size when you get it in the house,” Carver joked.

Located at 9105 N. Idaho Road, the farm typically opens Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but check ahead for hours and days, along with a $3 coupon, at http://carverfarms.com/.

Green Bluff Christmas Tree Farm

Three Green Bluff businesses team up to bring the “Green Bluff Christmas Experience” package on weekends for all-inclusive lunch, horse-drawn ride, and the customer’s tree.

In the spirit of “Dashing through the Snow” and weather permitting, a draft horse from T ’n T Western Adventures pulls a sleigh filled with riders across snowy fields to their tree-hunting destination. Absent white stuff, visitors get a horse-drawn wagon ride.

The partners are High Country Orchard, T ’n T Western Adventures, and Green Bluff Christmas Tree Farm. Package prices start at $65 for the first adult; $15, additional adult; and $12, per child.

“I think this is our fourth year,” said Michael Townshend, Green Bluff Christmas Tree co-owner. His family also owns the nearby Townshend Cellar.

The rides take visitors around the backside of the tree farm for wide Green Bluff views. Some adults opt for $5 wine tasting at the nearby Townshend facility. High Country Orchard, at 8518 E. Greenbluff Road, handles the package administration, serves the lunch and offers a gift shop.

Many people who just want a tree go directly to the U-cut operation covering 23 acres, a large portion of the former Huckaba Orchard, and typically open Wednesday through Sunday at 8022 E. Greenbluff Road. Tree-only sales are $50. Call (509) 998-9967.

For excursion package questions, call (509) 238-9545. To book tickets, go online to www.highcountryorchard.com. Options are available for private wagon or sleigh rides.

Sunset Orchard

This is the first U-cut Christmas tree season for Bill Firmage, owner of Sunset Orchard in Green Bluff.

And he plans to light up that premiere by decorating a portion of its 160 cherry trees.

“When they come to my farm, they’re going to see 35 to 50 cherry trees lit up with Christmas lights, and it’s going to hopefully be winter wonderland,” Firmage said.

“It’s going to be the experience. If you have been to Green Bluff, you know it’s beautiful. That’s why I bought the farm, because I wanted to see the kids’ faces light up.”

Along with cherry trees, Sunset has a few acres of heritage evergreens planted long ago. Firmage took over as orchard owner this past spring. Mostly U-cut trees are offered for sale, but some will be pre-cut. He’s hoping to have horse-drawn sleigh rides on weekends.

“There is always going to be hot chocolate at every farm. That’s just a given. After they go out into the cold, you have to have hot drinks.”

A tree’s average price is around $50, with higher prices for taller trees up to 16 feet. Firmage expects that seasonal hours will be daily until Christmas Eve at 8110 E. Greenbluff Road, but check ahead. Check at (509) 954-2692, or online www.sunsetorchardongreenbluff.com.

Bodacious Berries and Big Barn Brewing

Another seasonal offering in Green Bluff is at Bodacious Berries, which also has Big Barn Brewing. The site has a package deal of a tractor-drawn wagon ride, Christmas tree, chili and beer for $60. Solely buying a tree without the package costs $40, said co-owner Jane Deitz.

She and her husband, Craig Deitz, (similar name, but not related to the Dietz family) own acreage with U-cut evergreens and are now in a fourth year of offering Christmas trees.

“We had a lot of families last year,” Jane Deitz said. “Our wagon is a tractor-drawn wagon. The whole family can fit; it’s a flat-bed trailer with hay bales and blankets to stay warm.”

Find Bodacious at 16004 N. Applewood Lane, with tree sales typically through Dec. 22. Check on operations at https://www.facebook.com/BodaciousBerriesFruitsAndBrews/. What’s provided: saws and tree-haul help, along with hot cocoa for kids.

Papa Tom’s Christmas Trees

Truly a small mom-and-pop operation, Papa Tom’s has only 4 acres of trees in Otis Orchards.

“But we’re trying to provide an experience for people,” said Tom Roberts, who previously grew alfalfa and is co-owner with wife Lynn. “We let the grandkids name it.”

This is the operation’s third year, along with Grammy’s Christmas Store, selling decorations and crafted gifts. There’s free hot cocoa and cider, and usually a bonfire depending on weather.

Papa Tom’s has a tradition that’s a proven hit among kids: The story of two elves, Andy and Annie, which are dolls. Roberts tells the children that Annie listens and comes home when called, but Andy doesn’t. He’s lost now among the trees, and the farm needs help from the kids to find him.

“We have kids who will come back and ask, ‘Is Andy still out there in the trees?’ ” he said.

Any tree is $50. Daily hours are 12-5 p.m., except Mondays, at 24615 E. Dalke Ave. Sales will be limited this year, so check ahead at PAPA Tom’s Christmas Facebook page or calling (509) 953-3529.

Hansen’s Green Bluff

For more than 30 years, Hansen’s mainstay has been apples. It opened for U-cut Christmas trees about eight years ago after purchasing an adjacent 10 acres.

Now, Karen Hansen said she wishes they’d started earlier in the Christmas business because of the festive atmosphere.

“You go from apples, then into Christmas trees, and Christmas is such a fun time with kids and families coming up here.”

The farm offers handmade wreaths and garland. Hansen’s has a Union Gospel Mission “Giving Tree,” where customers can pin a dollar handed back to them after buying a tree.

Another separate tree in the shed has ornaments for kids to select for free. There’s hot cocoa, activities, music and, weather-permitting, an outside bonfire. Children get free kits for making s’mores.

Trees sell for about $50. The farm offers a 30 percent military discount, and some smaller pre-cut trees are closer to $20. At 8215 E. Green Bluff Road, Hansen’s stays open daily from about mid-morning until dusk, usually until mid-December. Check at (509) 238-4902 or online, www.HansensGreenBluffOrchard.com.

G’s Christmas Trees

Maynard Gillespie started planting trees in 2005 in Chattaroy as a hobby, said his wife, Carol.

The couple didn’t have luck at first with 7 acres in trees, until they got in a better irrigation system, and then the evergreens took off.

So G’s Christmas Trees opened to the public just a year ago, mainly spreading the word with signs and through word-of-mouth. It has an old sleigh and a tractor for family photos.

“We have a gift shop, so there is a fire from a wood stove inside where you can get warm, plus we have an outdoor fire pit,” Carol Gillespie said. “We have cocoa, cookies, hot cider and tea.”

Their son and daughter help along with eight grandchildren. G’s Christmas Trees typically is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Other days are by appointment. All trees are $55, at 25107 N. Regal Road. For more info, the website is www.gschristmastrees.com.

Theodore’s Thicket

Ted Lowe has dozens of holiday stories from operating a Christmas tree farm since 1998 called Theodore’s Thicket.

One that still touches him: A call from a woman who lived in Western Washington to order a tree for her sick daughter in Spokane. “I took it to her and set it up for her,” he said. “The mother sent a check in the mail, and she overpaid.”

He likes his job because people arrive with smiles and in a festive mood. Sometimes lost keys aren’t found until spring, and Lowe writes down those customers’ phone numbers.

In more recent years, Lowe had a two-story barn built, where people can relax and sip hot cocoa by a fireplace. A farmer from Oklahoma sells fresh pecans on weekends.

The Colbert site also has a 1926 Dodge Brothers old red truck popular for photos, and other pictures are taken in front of an old cabin leaning up as decor inside the barn.

Trees sell for $45, at 7420 E. Bernhill Road. Theodore’s Thicket is open on weekends and by appointment Monday-Thursday. Call (509) 238-4514; Website, www.theodoresthicket.com.

Walters’ Fruit Ranch

Owners Jason and Morghan Morrell have extended the seasons of Walters’ Fruit Ranch by selling pies and more. It’s offered U-cut Christmas trees for about five years.

People who buy a tree at the Green Bluff site also get a tractor ride on the Fruit Loop Express. A Christmas shop opens for business for grabbing take-and-bake pies, apples, homemade jams, soaps and other gifts.

Walters’, at 9807 E. Mt. Day Spokane Road, has tree prices ranging between $50 and $55, which includes the tractor ride and hot cider. Days are Friday, Saturday and Sunday. See updates at https://www.facebook.com/waltersfruit/.

Legacy Farm/238 Brewing

Legacy Farm started Christmas tree sales two years ago and is open weekends, at least through Dec. 9.

It has kids’ scavenger hunts with prizes, a children’s craft area and trivia games for adults. The farm’s barn is decorated to look like a gingerbread house, and Santa makes a few appearances.

Santa visits are scheduled from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Dec 2, 3 and 9. A professional photographer is on hand, but people can take candid pictures as well, said Lisa Beckman, co-owner with husband Michael Beckman. Legacy Farm also offers hot cider and hot cocoa.

Legacy has another seasonal draw, she said. Each tree purchase includes a pint of its 238 Brewing beer. Near its gingerbread barn, adults can visit the separate ale house for beer or hard cider. Other attractions are hot food and live music.

A tree costs in the $45 to $55 range from table-top to 16-foot trees, at 10321 E. Day Mt. Spokane Road. Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Check at www.238brewing.com or the brewery’s Facebook page.

Camden Ranch

A 40-minute drive north of Spokane, Camden Ranch is another long-time U-cut Christmas tree operation, at 1521 Willms Road in Elk. The family-owned operation offers a hay ride, hot cider and coffee.

After a trek to find a tree, customers also will find a gift shop to visit. Most trees are listed at $48, its website said. For more information, go to www.camdenranch.com. Call (509) 292-2543.

Contact the writer:

(509) 459-5439

treval@SPOKESMAN.com

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