The owners of a local tree farm work year-round to prepare for the holiday rushBy David Kindy | Photography by Jack Foley
Down a quiet Pembroke lane, close to 7,000 Fraser firs are packed into a 5-acre plot, their distinctive conical shapes and fresh fragrance evoking thoughts of the holidays, no matter the time of year. For Dan Costanzo, owner of The Christmas Tree Farm, caring for evergreens is a year-round labor of love.
“There’s a lot to do around here,” says Costanzo, who works on the farm nearly every day of the year, fertilizing, weeding and mowing around the trees. “In May, we remove the pine cones. There are hundreds of them on each tree and if you don’t take them off, they shed their seeds and leave a sharp spike that can jab you.”
Costanzo started selling trees in 1986 but he’s been working on the farm since 1976. He was a young teen when his father, Robert, a Marlboro policeman, purchased the former hay farm and decided to grow Christmas trees. It took 10 years for those first seedling to grow to size. The farm is now one of the last few cut-your-own tree operations in the region.
For much of the year, the farm is inhabited only by Costanzo’s family, a few farm animals and the Fraser firs. But that all changes the day after Thanksgiving when the holiday rush kicks into gear. Hundreds of people make an annual pilgrimage to The Christmas Tree Farm to find the perfect tree. “I get a lot of regulars and some people have been coming for 20 or 30 years,” says Costanzo, who also sells wreaths, swags and cemetery boxes.
In November, Costanzo does what is known as basal pruning, where he removes the bottom tree boughs and these branches are then used to make wreaths that are sold at the farm shop. The branches are trimmed and attached to a 12-inch metal ring. The wreath assembly is then fed into a machine that tightens down the boughs and – voilà – a freshly made 22-inch Christmas wreath.
The wreaths come in a variety of forms, from circles to hearts, crosses, candy canes and tree shapes. Customers can also purchase wreaths adorned with holiday ornaments, handmade by Costanzo’s wife, Terri.
Just how fresh are the wreaths? Very. “In June, I was in the barn when I noticed something in the corner,” says Costanzo. “It was one of our wreaths that we forgot about and it was as fresh as when we made it last fall.”
When it comes to selecting trees, customers head out into the field with 8-foot sticks that are painted red on the bottom. When they find their tree, they turn over the stick to signal they are ready to have it cut.
“I get a lot of regulars and some people have been coming for 20 or 30 years”
“People can cut their own tree, but they don’t,” Costanzo says with a laugh. “We cut the tree, load it on an ATV and drive it up front.” The trees are then shaken by a machine or blown out with backpack blowers to clear away any loose needles and debris before being wrapped in netting and tied to the top of the car.
“We like to tie them on for our customers,” says Costanzo. “I’ve seen too many people put them on themselves with the top of the tree pointing forward and then the wind blows the boughs open while they are driving away.”
Costanzo and his wife are proud to be raising their own children on the family homestead, continuing the tradition and brightening the holiday season for countless South Shore residents in the process.
The Christmas Tree Farm
254 Taylor St., Pembroke