By John Burton |
MIDDLETOWN – For the last three decades, it’s been all about Christmas for the Kohl family.
“I just love seeing people so happy,” said Pat Kohl as she watched customers roam her Lincroft Christmas Tree Farm.
With just less than three weeks until Dec. 25, on a sunny and unseasonably warm morning, families last Saturday were making their way through the approximately 7-acre farm at 523 Newman Springs Road. They were choosing from the more than 1,000 trees grown on the family-owned and operated farm, which include blue spruce, concolor pine trees and Fraser fir, along with the Douglas fir variety of evergreen trees shipped in from Pennsylvania. If they chose, customers could cut down their own tree or have it done for them. Employees, mostly area high school kids, are on hand to help with the trees, including loading in or on the vehicle.
Eric and Audra MacDonald and their young son had recently moved from Hoboken to Holmdel and decided they wanted a tree from a farm as opposed to just going to a big box store. “That’s why we moved down here,” Audra said. “We wanted the experience.”
“It’s very, very nice,” as she looked around the farm, buzzing with activity. Hot chocolate was available and Santa Claus was on hand.
The young couple hadn’t yet decided on a tree but Audra told her husband “We’re looking for something around seven (feet).”
“Next year I’ll bring my own saw,” to cut down a tree, Eric said. He then looked down at his sneakers and offered, “and wear my boots,” for making his way around the field.
Pat and her husband William Sr. operate the farm along with their adult children William Jr. and Mary Pat.
According to Pat, the family has been growing the trees for about 30 years. The Kohls looked at options to use the property that had been in William’s family for years, ways that would allow them to secure a farmland property assessment, letting them keep the property. They listened to a presentation by a representative of the New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers’ Association back then. That caused William to realize growing the trees would be less intensive and active a use than raising livestock. “So, we cleared the land an acre at a time,” and began planting saplings.
The couple explained it takes about nine years for a pine tree to become mature – to grow about 6 to 7 feet tall – and about six years for a spruce to mature. It took the Kohls about a decade before they were able to begin selling trees and now the farm is populated with them at various stages of maturity and height, according to Pat.
They let the seedlings spend about two years in seedbeds before planting them in the field. When they started, William remembered, Scotch pine were particularly popular for whatever reason, but have been replaced by Douglas fir and others as trees of first choice. Pat pointed out that Scotch pines tend to disease prone.
The farm charges $57 for pine, $59 for fir, $79 for spruce and Fraser fir trees start at $77.
After all these years, “We had people who’d sat on Santa’s lap,” when they were young, Pat said. “And now they come back with their kids.”
“It really has become a tradition,” she added. “And it’s part of our family tradition.”
“We’ve been here a couple of times,” said Jacco DeBruijn, Fair Haven, as a couple of teenage boys – seasonal workers for the farm – attempted to tie down the approximately 7-foot Douglas fir on to the roof of his car. DeBruijn said his 6-year-old daughter, Angelina, picked out the tree. She liked this one because “it’s tall,” Angelina said.
The family had plans to get it home and start on the decorating. “But it’s my job to get it in the house first,” DeBruijn acknowledged.
“It smells wonderful,” observed Ocean Township resident Denise DeCaesar. “I thought about an artificial (tree) but the aroma is so wonderful.”
DeCaesar just moved to a new condo with tall ceilings so she and her 9-year-old son, Damon, decided on a 9-foot Fraser fir. “We don’t know if it will get into the house,” she confided, “but we’ll see.”
They planned on having a “two-day adventure” decorating it, she said.
Pat and William live in a home just off of the farm property and Pat wouldn’t have it any other way. “I sit out there on my porch and I see the beautiful evergreens,” she said. “It’s absolutely perfect.”
Reporter John Burton can be reached at jburton@TwoRiverTimes.com
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