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Tracy Frank, Published December 12 2013

Perham farm helps families create Christmas traditions

PERHAM, Minn. - Every year, Bridgette Thiesen and her family engage in a friendly competition to see who can find the perfect Christmas tree. It’s something they’ve been doing for more than a decade.

This year, the honor went to her 17-year-old daughter, Thiesen said.

Thiesen had never chopped her own tree before, but she’d heard about it from her customers at Bridgette’s Main Frames custom picture framing and art gallery in Perham.

So when her daughter was just a few years old, her family started chopping their own tree at Santa’s Christmas Trees near Perham.

“It’s fun to have a tree that’s a little different every year,” Thiesen said, adding that they usually go for a Blue Spruce that’s just the right height and evenly rounded.

Minnesota Christmas tree farmers have approximately 500,000 Christmas trees for sale each year, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

The most popular varieties grown in the state are Balsam Fir, Fraser Fir and Scotch Pine.

It takes anywhere from eight to 12 years for a tree to grow to market height. During that time, farmers shear the trees for the proper shape, water young trees, and make sure the trees have the proper nutrients to grow, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture stated.

For every tree harvested, Christmas tree farmers plant an average of one to three seedlings in its place.

Dan Ament and his wife, Debbie, started Santa’s Christmas Trees 15 years ago. The tree farm is located 6 miles south of Perham.

“There’s not a better time of the year than Christmas,” Ament said. “It’s such a fun time of the year.”

Ament says he has lots of customers who have gotten their trees from him all 15 years he’s been in business. And many of them come out with their whole families to choose and chop their trees.

“It’s just a really fun thing. We have hot chocolate and hot cider. We give out the larger candy canes. It’s just a great time of the year, it really is,” he said.

The tree farm also has a 10-foot fiberglass Santa Claus, a stable, and a sleigh where people can take family photos.

Once families pick out their trees, Santa’s Christmas Trees will shake and bale them. And if people need help tying the trees onto their cars, Santa’s staff will do that, too, Ament said.

Real trees are better for the environment than artificial trees, Ament said. But beyond that, he says the biggest benefit is the tradition of going and getting the tree and having a unique tree every year.

Paul Kinn of Otter Tail has been buying trees from the Aments since they opened Santa’s Christmas Trees.

“It’s a friendly atmosphere,” he said. “They’ve always got a good selection of trees. They’re very helpful and know a lot about the trees.”

Kinn says he prefers the smell of live trees and has never really liked artificial trees or flowers.

He started out chopping his own tree, but in the past few years has been buying trees they’ve already cut. It’s a tradition he started after he got married and continues even though his kids are grown and no longer living at home.

“I think it’s an experience everyone should experience,” he said.

Tree Care Tips

• Make a fresh cut. Cut at least one inch from the bottom of the trunk just before bringing it inside and putting it in the stand. This re-opens the tree stem so it can drink water.

• Water immediately. After making the fresh cut, place the tree in a large capacity stand with warm water. The stand you use should hold at least one gallon of fresh water.

• Place Christmas tree away from heat sources. Heat sources like heat registers, space heaters, fireplaces, etc., speed up evaporation and moisture loss of the tree.

• Check water level daily. Do not allow the water level to drop below the fresh cut or the stem will reseal and be unable to drink. Christmas trees are very thirsty!

E Pickyourownchristmastree.org also recommends always calling Christmas tree farms before visiting to confirm their hours and make sure they have trees available.

Call Santa’s Christmas Trees near Perham, Minn., at (218) 346-4766.

For a list of Christmas tree farms in Minnesota, visit: www.mda.state.mn.us/food/minnesotagrown/christmastrees.aspx

– Minnesota Department of Agriculture


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526