Christmas tree sales branching out

November 28, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

Austin Sines, 4, stopped and thought for a minute before announcing why he selected a particular Christmas tree at Mount Hope Farms Saturday during the unofficial first weekend of the Christmas tree shopping season.

"It's good," the Hagerstown lad said. "It has pretty things on it."

Sines was sitting on the shoulders of his grandfather, Jeff Sines, who said Austin liked the looks of the branches of the chosen 4-foot tree, which the boy hoped would be put in his bedroom.

It took Austin about 10 minutes to select his tree. But when the family started looking for a tree for Jeff Sine's daughter, Jodi, Austin grew impatient and less picky.

"Hey, just pick one that's nice!" he said.

Soon after Jodi told her nephew to relax while she chose a tree, she selected a full 7-foot pine.

"I like fat trees," she said, grinning.

Jeff Sines tagged both trees and said he will return for them in about two weeks.


Usually during this, the slowest weekend of the tree shopping season, only about half of the people who pick trees take them home, said tree farm owner Danny Blickenstaff, who runs the business with his wife, Sharon.

The farm officially opened for the season Friday, but people have been tagging trees since mid-October, he said. The farm is on Mt. Tabor Road northwest of Hagerstown.

The Blickenstaffs started growing trees at the farm in 1981 and sold their first 100 trees in 1986, he said. The tree farm has been doubling in trees ever since then, said Blickenstaff, a retired employee of the U.S. Defense Department.

They now have 18,000 trees planted on about 18 acres, he said. They sell the trees for $16 to $45.

It takes most trees about seven years to grow to full height, Blickenstaff said.

While many holiday traditions remain the same, some parts of the tree business are changing, he said.

The most noticeable change is in the tradition of one tree per household - even in his own house, he said.

"We are going to two trees per family," he said. "That is just the way it is going.''

Some families buy two trees so they can have one tree on each floor of a two-story house, while others buy two so the children can have their own tree, he said.

Not only does the change mean the farm is selling more trees but also that there is a new generation of customers choosing trees earlier than usual, he said.

Blickenstaff said he will retire from the tree farm business in about 10 to 12 years. He has not decided whether they will hand management over to another family or just stop planting trees.

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