By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
STEVENSVILLE — Roger Bredeweg has made a living with spruces and pine trees for nearly three decades.
As owner and operator of Bredeweg Acres, which rests along Rockey Weed Road on the outskirts of Stevensville, Bredeweg is in the business of selling both tradition and Christmas trees.
The farm, which also produces blueberries for sale from July to August, has allowed Bredeweg to sell more than 500 trees this year.
Christmas trees, no matter what their breed, require a lot of care before and after they are harvested, Bredeweg said. That’s why he has a three-step process before customers drive away with holiday shrub on top of the car.
After a tree is chosen, Bredeweg drills a hole at the bottom end of the tree’s trunk, before placing it in a stand and shaking the tree to ensure all debris is off of the branches.
The farm offers pre-cut and “U-cut” trees. The U-cut trees allow families to cut them down themselves. Bredeweg said the tradition of doing so is like no other.
“Families go out and cut them down themselves. A lot of families like to do the whole routine of walking through the snow and picking one out,” he said. “What I like best is when we see the same families come back, year after year, and I recognize the faces. You see the kids get older. Some have been here 20 years and go on to pass the routine to their kids.”
Nothing goes to waste. Some of the green trimmings are sold to be used for platters and flower pots, even the occasional wreath.
Normally, it takes eight to 10 years for a tree to grow before they are cut down for sale. This year, Bredeweg said they brought some of them up early to make up for what was lost in the field in previous seasons.
In 2007, the farm lost a lot of trees because it was too wet and a few drowned. In 2012, Bredeweg saw the opposite of that occurred as some were lost because the conditions became too dry.
His tree inventory can sometimes feel the impact of a crop’s loss for years after because of how long they take to grow and mature.
How it started
Bredeweg said it all began when he was working at LECO Corp. in 1988. When they bought the farm, there were already a few trees on the land.
“I began planting trees and kept it up,” he said. “In the beginning, I just told people to drive around back and pick up a tree. Both the trees and blueberries were here when we started and I expanded it from there. I’ve always liked trees.”
Sales have been good for Bredeweg and the seven acres he has dedicated to Christmas trees. In fact, he said it’s been better than the year before.
The most popular day of the year for the tree portion of his business is the day after Thanksgiving. The following weekend can be busy too – enough to the point where he requires additional help.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” he said. “We get people that are local, but some from Chicago and the east side of the state.”
The Stevensville farmer has made a tradition of giving away a specific ornament that differs each year. Bredeweg sells the Christmas ornaments out of a chicken coop-turned Christmas gift shop.
The idea to do so came from a convention he attended in 1996.
“They suggested giving an ornament away as a way to promote your business,” Bredeweg said. “That way if a family comes here every year and collects them all, they could have about 20 years worth of ornaments.”
Picking the tree
The one thing that has changed is the variety of trees they offer.
Bredeweg recalled a time when they offered various pines, Douglas firs and blue spruces. Nowadays, most come for the Fraser fir.
The Fraser is favored because they have firm needles, grow straight, have a good color and hold stiff branches that allow people to hang more ornaments.
Over the years, Bredeweg has his routine down when it comes to tying down the trees. In addition to those services, Bredeweg allows customers to prepay for a tree for those who want to wait for their children to come home for Christmas.
In fact the one thing that’s kept him coming back each year are the people.
“I enjoy this. I grew up on a farm and I like seeing things grow and develop and meeting new people,” Bredeweg said. “The people are a big part of it.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 19, 2016)