BELMONT, Ohio — It’s not what you typically picture when you hear the word farm. The only livestock are horses. And in the fields, there are no long rows of corn or soybeans. But, like many farms, there is one time of the year where a profit needs to be made in order to make it to the next year.
Feisley Tree Farms is a 60-year-old Christmas tree farm that is in its second generation. John and Marian Feisley started out as dairy farmers and then decided to enter the tree business. John was also instrumental in starting the Ohio Christmas Tree Growers Association.
Today, John’s son and daughter-in-law, Geoff and Theresa Feisley, now lease the farm and operation. But they don’t look at the business as a way to sell trees — they are in the business of making memories.
Feisley’s Tree Farms comprises more than 600 acres over five farms and includes 300 acres of trees in Belmont County. The farm grows Scotch pine, white pine, Fraser fir and Colorado blue spruce trees.
“We are in the business of making memories and traditions,” said Theresa Feisley.
“What you are giving is a memory,” she added. “You can’t say that if you go up to the attic; picking out that special tree is a memory.”
Theresa said they keep going year after year because they like to be part of people’s lives.
She enjoys helping local families continue their traditions, but she does wonder if some of the traditions are being lost.
“Geoff and I worry about the youth of today not having family traditions. They need them, no matter what they are,” said Theresa.
And the Feisleys are no strangers to trees or traditions in their home. Every year on Thanksgiving, they take a wagon out to the fields and pick out nine trees for their home. Each one measures between 71⁄2 feet and 9 feet tall.
“Due to how busy we get after Thanksgiving, we make sure each one is up and decorated by Thanksgiving morning,” Theresa said.
The farm swings into full operation in mid-October and works seven days a week through Dec. 24.
The farm sells its trees through wholesale, retail and the popular pick-and-choose operation.
The retail lot is located in St. Clairsville, Ohio, and has been in operation for the past 35 years. The pick-and-choose operation is located on their home farm and has been in business for the past 17 years.
The choose-and-cut lot is full service and includes picking the tree up from the field, shaking it and loading it for the customer.
“We have learned people love to see what you are doing to their tree and why you are doing it,” Theresa said.
The pick-and-choose lot also includes wagon rides for families to enjoy, and concessions. In addition, customers can get out of the weather in the barn and enjoy some trees decorated by the Feisley family.
The first barn burned as the family was getting ready to move onto the farm, 14 years ago. So the family searched and found a barn that needed dismantling in Polk, Ohio. They tore it down and rebuilt it on the Feisley farm. It dates back to the late 1700 and early 1800s.
She said approximately 1,600 trees are sold between the retail lot and the choose-and-cut operation. Including the wholesale sales, more than 11,000 trees are harvested each year.
In addition to the trees, Theresa also produces and sells 600 wreaths and swags a year.
The good and bad
Theresa said she loves the fact she and her husband get to work together and they get to work outside. However, there are drawbacks.
“You are working with Mother Nature. She can be your best friend and your worst nightmare. We’ve seen both here, Theresa said.
“You learn to work with it,” she added, “no matter what blessing or plight she gives you.”
The family was named Belmont County Conservation Family of the Year by the local Soil and Water Conservation District for their conservation practices and the rotation they use to plant new trees.
The Feisley family doesn’t stop worrying about their customer’s experience once the tree is loaded into the vehicle.
Theresa said the education part of the sale is also important.
“We want to know we did everything we could to ensure the customer gets a good tree and it lasts as long as we say it will,” Theresa said.
She said the work continues with wholesalers, as well, making sure they get the most important words out to the public: a fresh cut off the bottom of the tree and use warm tap water.
Theresa said she has been selling trees for over 20 years and each year holds a special memory for the Feisley family — memories that start with a real Christmas tree.