The following is an exerpt of an article published in the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle on November 30, 2006.

Click here to read this article in it's entirety

Picking Christmas tree plants fond memories
The Leaf-Chronicle

Christmas trees are big business. In 2005, Americans bought 32.8 million live Christmas trees, at a midprice of $42. While $42 doesn't sound like a fortune, it added up to $1.37 billion last year.

That's a lot of green.

But local tree farm owners say, nice as the money is, they're in it for something much more gratifying family fun.

"We like working with small children and letting them experience the farm," says Gary Hamm, who, with wife, Linda Hamm, owns Erin's Farm in Cunningham. "I especially like giving hayrides. Lots of families come out, ride on the tractor, take some walks, spend time out in Mother Nature in the lovely weather."

The vast majority of the live trees Americans bought last year 88 percent were pre-cut trees. The other 12 percent of them were cut-your-own trees, primarily from tree farms.

"It's a family experience that's positive," says Jerry Martin, who opened a Woodlawn tree farm called Santa's Place with his wife, Patti Martin, five years ago. "It's amazing, 99 percent of the time the family comes out, and everyone picks a different tree. Then the mother says, 'This is the one,' so you know where the power lies in the family."

At Kirkwood Tree Farm in St. Bethlehem, the whole operation is about family. Wayne and Brenda Pressler have planted two acres of Christmas trees on Wayne's grandmother's 300-acre farm.

"We are the third generation of this family to farm on it," Brenda Pressler says.

Gary and Linda Hamm began planting trees when their younger daughter, Mariah, was a baby in a front-pack. Since then, Mariel, 19, and Mariah, 15, have spent thousands of hours helping their parents on the farm.

"The girls have been very active in all aspects of the Christmas tree operation planting, weeding, shearing, tagging trees and greeting customers," Gary Hamm says. "It also gives them lessons in business management, the value of customers and especially repeat customers."

Hamm says Erin's Farm is all about creating family traditions, which allows the Hamm family to watch their customers' children grow up in one-year increments.

"We're trying to have an operation that's not only family-oriented, but perpetually family-oriented," Hamm says. "We want children, their children and their children's children to be able to come for generations and enjoy a pleasant family experience."

In business 13 years, Brenda Pressler says she sees many families come back year after year.

"That's what we're all about families," Brenda Pressler says. "We have a hayride. It's the whole tradition. We wanted to give families something more than walking out to a tree lot and picking out a tree that's been cut three months ago."

Seeing carloads of kids arrive at Kirkwood Tree Farm is a thrill for the Presslers.

"That's half the fun of it watching the kids," Brenda Pressler says.

Fred Kirchhoff, a farmer with five acres of Christmas trees near Frankfort, Ky., revels in seeing children's sense of wonder on his farm. Three years ago, he was chatting with customers when he heard the shriek of a young girl who had wandered with her family through the fields.

He ran down the hill, fearful the child was hurt. But that anxious moment turned into heartwarming relief when the 6-year-old exclaimed, "I just saw a reindeer!"

For Kirchhoff, that child's pure joy and innocence mistaking a white-tailed deer for a reindeer reinforced his belief that he was in the Christmas tree business for the right reasons.

Martin says in addition to outdoor family fun, he aims to provide families a catalyst for conversations about the Christmas story. Santa's Place has an oversized nativity scene displayed on the farm, and Martin says he often sees parents pointing to the figures of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, explaining to their children who the people are.

"I think they go away not only with a tree," Martin says, "but also with a little more appreciation of the holidays."

Stacy Smith Segovia is a features writer for The Leaf-Chronicle.
She can be reached by telephone at 245-0237 or by e-mail at
The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal contributed to this report.

The following is an exerpt of an article published in the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle on December 1, 2002.

Click here to read this article in it's entirety

Christmas tree farms bring city folks back to tradition

The Leaf-Chronicle

It's the stuff that inspired Currier and Ives. Families trekking through the country to find the perfect Christmas tree.

With more people missing out on the experience, especially in urban areas, a business opportunity in Christmas tree farms is now created.

It's a trend that's growing in Montgomery County, where there are now three recognized Christmas tree farms.

The newest is called Santa's Place in the Dotsonville area of Woodlawn. Owned by Jerry and Patti Martin, the tree farm has been about 15 years in the making.

"This is my retirement from Northwest High School," said Jerry Martin, former NWHS history and special education teacher.

Across 10 rolling acres in the scenic countryside, the Martins have some 1,000 White pine and Scotch pine trees in varying stages of growth, lined up in neat groupings.

Plus, you'll find pre-cut Frazier fir trees shipped here from North Carolina. At Santa's Place, the aura of Christmas abounds. The scent of fresh evergreen is everywhere.

"We've had the goal of setting this up for about 15 years now," Jerry Martin said. And it's a family affair. Granddaughters Shannon Hiemstra, 12, and Amanda Hiemstra, 9, play a big role in the inner workings of Santa's Place. Amanda's job is watering the pre-cut trees, while Shannon takes the cuttings from evergreens and makes Christmas wreaths to sell.

The Martins use hand-painted holiday signs to direct customers to their Dunbar Road tree farm.

Their operation joins two other pre-established Christmas tree farms in the county -- Gary Hamm's "Erin's Farm" on Hodges Road in Cunningham, and Kirkwood Tree Farm, run by Wayne Pressler on Buck Road.

Hamm will again have white pine, Scotch pine and Virginia pines for sale on about 10 acres. The trees range from three to 20 feet tall.

He adds to the appeal of the place by keeping a campfire and free hayride going for families venturing to select a Christmas tree. There are also scenic ponds and hiking trails.

"You can choose and cut your own tree," Hamm said, "or get a balled and burlapped tree, or dig your own."

He is donating trees this year to Montgomery County and the city of Clarksville for the new Courts Center, and other public facilities.

At the 260-acre, family-owned site of the Kirkwood Tree Farm, Wayne and Brenda Pressler also have naturally-grown White pines, and you can also take a hayride there. The Presslers are operating a third-generation farm that features an acre of Christmas trees

Pam Rye, small farm specialist for the Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension Service, said that, in addition to the business opportunity of developing tree farms and the memorable traditions they offer families, cutting live trees is becoming recognized as a better alternative for the environment to artificial trees.

"On average, the life of an artificial tree is just six years. Then the aluminum and plastic is just tossed in a landfill where it will lie in a composed state forever," Rye said.

"On the other hand, real trees are biodegradable and can be recycled and reused for other purposes. The branches can be used to prevent soil erosion on river banks or as mulch for plantings, gardens or in animal stalls.

"The trees grown by our local Christmas tree growers should be viewed as an agricultural crop, not a natural resource. This means that we are not destroying our forestlands. The growers raise these trees for the specific purpose of being cut and brought to your home during the holidays," she said.

Paul Nordstrom, marketing specialist for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, said that pine trees -- Virginia pines, Scotch pines and white pines -- are the main types of trees grown on Tennessee Christmas tree farms.

"You can't buy a less-expensive tree anywhere -- not an artificial tree, and certainly not some variety shipped all the way across the country from Washington state or Michigan," Nordstrom said.

"Pine trees smell wonderful, and a fresh-cut tree will keep its smell and its needles longer than one that was cut back in October, way up north."

"Next, buying a balled and burlapped tree is a smart way to get years of value out of your purchase," he said. "New houses and subdivisions have popped up in Tennessee like dandelions, and most of those homes are surrounded by not much of anything. Use your balled and burlapped tree to add some life to your lawn.

"Pine trees are fast-growing. They'll make a difference in the landscape in a very few years," Nordstrom said. "Pines are a quick, pretty and inexpensive fix for places you'd like to hide, like air-conditioning units, or people you'd like to hide from, like the neighbors.

"Tennesseans are fortunate to live in a temperate climate where trees can be successfully planted late in the year, and of course, if the tree was grown in Tennessee, you know it's already acclimated and will continue to thrive in Tennessee's growing conditions.

"If you don't have a lawn of your own, you can still get double duty out of your purchase. Let your tree serve as part of your Christmas gift to a family member or friend who can use it. Some people get concerned that balled and burlapped trees won't fare well after being kept indoors through the holiday season, but this year's season is exceptionally short because Thanksgiving falls at the very end of the month," he said.

Jimmy Settle covers business and can be reached at 245-0752, or at


To find out more about Montgomery County's three recognized Christmas tree farms, call:

  • Santa's Place on Dunbar Road at 920-2744

  • Erin's Farm on Hodges Road at 387-3445

  • Kirkwood Tree Farm on Buck Road at (931)-624-8392 or (615) 310-9231

    Originally published Sunday, December 1, 2002

    The following is an exerpt of an article published in the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle on November 24, 2001.

    Saturday, November 24, 2001

    Tree farmers prepare for busy season

    The Leaf-Chronicle

    While area stores and malls were full of people Friday, the Kirkwood Tree Farm was only full of trees. But that should change soon.

    Wayne Pressler, who runs the Christmas tree farm, said his first day of business is usually slow. "This is our first day open this year," he said. "Business doesn't usually pick up until the first or second weekend in December."

    Kirkwood is not the only tree farm in Montgomery County, but it is the only one listed in the Tennessee Department of Agriculture's annual Christmas tree directory.

    People interested in purchasing a tree grown in Tennessee can go to the TDA Web site,, to see a listing of 50 tree farms in 30 counties across the state.

    Pressler said his tree farm has 500 trees and 200 of them will be for sale this season. The trees range in size from 3 to 8 feet tall, and are priced from $20 to $35.

    Pressler said the sooner it snows, the better his business will be. "If it snows, we will be busy," he said. "That really seems to help people get out."

    "Last year a man an his family came out in just miserable weather," said Pressler's wife, Brenda. "I mean it was sleeting and cold, but he said his kids wanted a tree that day."

    The Pressler's say picking a Christmas tree should be a family event. "Kids can come here with their parents and help pick and cut down their tree of choice," Mr. Pressler said. "We also provide treats for the kids like hayrides, coloring books and candy."

    Pressler, whose family has owned the Kirkwood farm for three generations, said anything people can do as a family is good.

    "I'm the first generation to do trees, but my grandfather and my father raised cattle and row crops," he said. "The Christmas trees are my contribution to the family farm."

    Michelle E. Shaw can be reached by telephone at 245-0750 or by e-mail at

    Tree farmers prepare for busy season

    Donna Wilson/The Leaf-Chronicle
    Brenda Pressler and her husband, Wayne, have been selling Tennessee White Pines from their Kirkwood Tree Farm for the last eight years. The farm has about 500 trees, including seedlings, pictured above. Kirkwood Tree Farm is located in the eastern part of Montgomery County.

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    Bring your family to Kirkwood Tree Farm in Clarksville, Tennessee to get your own Christmas tree for this holiday season