A cut above: Tree farm visits a Christmas tradition

HARPERS FERRY – Getting a Christmas tree doesn’t have to be just another chore to cross off an overflowing to-do list.

Alan Gibson, who co-owns Ridgefield Farm and Orchard on Kidwiler Road outside Harpers Ferry, says a growing number of Eastern Panhandle residents enjoy traipsing around rows of evergreen looking for just the right tree.

Alan Gibson, co-owner of Ridgefield Farm and Orchard.

Alan Gibson, co-owner of
Ridgefield Farm and Orchard.

“Unless you’ve done it, there’s no way to understand it,” Gibson said. “You don’t just get a Christmas tree … you’re creating memories. It’s a tradition for a lot of families.”

Ridgefield is the sole entry on the West Virginia Department of Agriculture’s list of tree farms in Jefferson or Berkeley counties.

About nine of the farm’s 33 acres are devoted to Christmas trees in four varieties: Blue Spruce (“a majestic tree,” says Gibson. “Real traditional”), Norway Spruce (“a little fatter tree; they hold very heavy ornaments well”), Concolor Fir (“a silvery-gray tree … unusual-looking and when you bring it in the house it smells vaguely of tangerine”) and the West Virginia Balsam Fir (“short needles, a great aroma and a beautiful color; it holds its needles well.”)

Gibson said the farm not only has four distinct types of trees, but options in every size and price tag.

In the market for a 9- to 11-foot tree? Gibson has those – and plenty of ’em. After several years of drought, the farm has experienced a number of good crops and now has an excessive number of supersized trees, he said.

“What we have this year is an overabundance of very tall trees so there is special pricing on those,” he said. “If you want, you can cut them down to size.”

Also at Ridgefield and a welcome option for the budget-minded: Less-than-perfect trees, including “Charlie Browns” named after the one Lucy Van Pelt describes as “not such a bad little tree” in Charles Schulz’s 1965 TV classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas” special.

Tree season at Ridgefield is on hold Thanksgiving Day but picks up again Friday and continues 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Dec. 22. To sweeten the deal, the farm serves complementary hot chocolate in the gift shop, where apples and a variety of homemade goods including jams, breads, cookies and more also are available for purchase.

Many want to choose and cut down their tree, but customers also may select the tree and then have a staff member at Ridgefield do the cutting. Either way, workers place the cut tree neatly in netting and tie it to the car for the trip home.

There’s also the tree ball option for the environmentally conscious, Gibson said. The customer picks a tree and it’s dug up, roots and all.

“We will ball and burlap a tree … to be kept in a bucket for seven to 10 days,” he said. “Then they can take it outside and plant it. You get to have a tree and landscaping.”

Brian Cornell of Arlington, Va., hit the fields at Ridgefield recently. He loves that each year’s tree is unique. “You can get a different type of tree every year if you want,” he said. “The shape is different, the needles are different and even the branches are different. Some branches hold ornaments differently so the tree looks different every year.

“I’m a ‘real tree’ person,” he said. “It’s almost like a religion for me and I would never consider getting a fake tree.”

 

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