Editor’s note: This story was originally published on Little Lake County in 2011 and reflects Kristy’s experience at that time. We have updated to reflect current information, however, your experience may vary.
Our holiday season is always kicked off by a trip to the Christmas tree lot. I adore the smell and ambiance of a fresh tree, but I was ready for a new experience this year. My husband has often reminisced about cutting down his own tree every Christmas while visiting his grandparents in northern Wisconsin. Now that the kids were big enough, I was ready to continue this tradition with our own family.
Little Review: Pioneer Tree Farm, McHenry
After reading Little McHenry County’s list of local tree farms, we decided to head to Pioneer Tree Farm in McHenry. Not only was it only 20 minutes from our home, but it is also an organic tree farm, which, after reading of the many pesticides used in growing Christmas trees, was very important to me. For those of you who feel guilty chopping down a tree, you will be comforted to know that they are considered a highly sustainable crop, and one acre of Christmas trees provides enough oxygen to support 18 people. Plus, Montreal’s environmental consulting firm has found that an artificial tree would have to be used for more than 20 years to be greener than buying a fresh-cut tree. A trade group of artificial tree makers even found in their own report that it would take at least 10 years… as always, the truth is probably someplace in the middle. These trees are local, sustainable, pesticide-free, and will last much longer than a tree from a lot because you are chopping it down yourself rather than it being cut days or even weeks before Thanksgiving. Plus, Pioneer Tree Farm donates 10% of their tree sales to Environmental Defenders of McHenry County.
We visited the farm on a sunny Saturday morning with my family and in-laws. I will admit that I was a bit concerned at first, these trees were small and relatively sparse, but I had expected that. I knew there was a drought this summer and reminded myself that this was more about the experience than simply finding a perfect tree. After getting some information from the attendant, we hopped on a wagon and rode out to the field to find our tree. There are acres and acres of trees of all kinds, and most trees were under 6-7’. After walking around for a good half hour and hedging our bets, we found it, our tree. While we had gotten fir trees in the past, I was ready for a change, and this nice little pine tree was just right, so my husband started cutting (which admittedly took less than a minute).
Then we found my husband’s parents and helped them get their tree before heading back to have our tree shaken and baled; all included, of course. This was when the real fun began. We all went to the warming house for some hot cocoa and checked out their holiday crafts and baked goods. Once we were sufficiently warmed up, we went outside again, where we dipped our own candles and made a wooden holder. The kids loved this, and now they want us to eat dinner by candlelight every evening, so our candles are almost burned out already. After feeding their chickens and watching the blacksmith demonstration, we sat by the fire before heading home.
The farm is staffed mostly by the owners and volunteers, and every one of them went out of their way to be friendly and helpful. All in all, we spent two and a half hours there and had a wonderful time. We truly felt like we had stepped back in time despite still being so close to home. It was clearly more than just a quick trip to get a tree. Of course, the kids insist that we have to go back every year, and I agree with them. It was a wonderful experience for all of us and a great way to kick off our holiday celebrations.
Our little pine tree picked out and decorated (except lights, I have to draw the line somewhere) by five and three years old.
Pioneer Tree Farm
Open Saturdays and Sundays – see website for this year’s dates and times
4614 Pioneer Road, McHenry | (815) 385-8512
Do you cut your own tree? We’d love to hear about your favorite tree farm.
Find more Christmas in McHenry County fun!