Wolfe’s Pine Valley Farms near Sykesville started its 2020 holiday season last week, giving people a chance to choose and cut down their own tree for Christmas across the more than 100-acre farm.
The farm has been in Holden Wolfe’s family since the late 1970s. Roger and Jane Wolfe originally farmed row crops and livestock when they established the place in 1977, and that same year the family planted its first field of Christmas trees. Pine Valley Farms has six different types of trees this season.
In 2019, the farm transitioned to Holden Wolfe, 57, the second-generation owner, and his wife Karen. The Times caught up with Wolfe to talk about Pine Valley Farms’ 43rd holiday season, how they’re coping with the coronavirus pandemic, and what goes into making sure customers get quality trees this time of year.
Q: How long does it takes to get ready for the holiday season on your tree farm?
A: It takes an additional two months of preparation above the normal farm jobs to get ready for selling season. We take extra time to trim and put price tags on the trees that are being harvested this year. It also includes getting the fields and roads safe and clean for families to walk around. We make changes to the website, advertising, flyers and signs. We have to get any necessary permits. The list, like most farms, never ends.
Q: What’s a typical day like on the farm during the holiday season?
A: A typical day on a farm during selling season includes cutting trees for our retail lot. Cutting down trees to make wreaths and swags. Making sure our equipment is ready for the day. Greeting customers and handing them a flyer which has the tree prices and field information. We then shake and bale their tree. Shaking removes older needles that shed yearly.
Q: Are there any challenges the farm is facing in regards to COVID-19?
A: With COVID we opened three days early [Nov. 18] to try and decrease crowds. We have limited access to our sales barn and we are not selling hot food and drinks. We have to sanitize saws and tree carts. It’s added a whole step to help protect our customers, our own family and employees.
Q: Which trees seem to be the best sellers annually?
A: Our best selling trees are Fraser and Douglas Fir.
Q: How has the tree farm done well as times have changed and some people choose artificial trees?
A: Artificial trees have definitely impacted the Christmas tree business as a whole. We have been fortunate that other farms have gone out of business and sales have been strong. However there will be a lot of new trees nationwide on the market in three years and that will make things challenging. The younger generation seems to be more inclined to buying something real.
Q: What are your expectations for the 2020 holiday season?