Traditional trappings: Local tree farms create holiday memories

People are coming earlier each year to cut their tree. — Tom Harbinson photo

The Christmas season is filled with traditions and one of the most endearing is cutting down your own tree. Picture a family walking through a snow-covered field, searching out the perfect tree, cutting it down and following it with hot chocolate.

Maple Row Farm

Many embrace this tradition at one of several tree farms in Fairfield County that offer cut-your-own trees. Tree prices are in the $70 range and a variety of firs and spruces become available after Thanksgiving each year.

On a snowy Saturday, the landscape at local tree farms was postcard perfect and the crowds were thick. At Maple Row Farm in Easton, parents pulled little kids on sleds with dogs in tow and huddled around the fire pit with a cup of hot chocolate after cutting down their tree. Farm staffers baled trees and drove hayrides full of people up to the fields. At “Candy Cane Field” at Jones Family Farms in Shelton, families and friends were taking photos under the farm sign situated on a hill overlooking snow-topped trees.

A family gathers around the fire at Maple Row Farm.

For many local families, a trip to the tree farm is an annual tradition. Parents take their kids and after they grow up, they return with their children. Neil McClure of Fairfield said his in-laws have been going to Jones Family Farm for over 40 years.

“This tradition has been passed to our family and we have continued going there since 2001. We love watching our five children look around for the perfect tree. We have two trees in our house, one for the kids to decorate as they like, and one for mom and dad. The kids search for their tree and all will agree on one,” he said. “Pictures in front of the tree are taken before we cut it down. Every year we are joined by my in-laws, so it is a true family outing.”

A family brings their freshly cut tree to their car at Jones Family Farm in Shelton. — Tom Harbinson photo

Often groups of friends and families will go together and local tree farms’ Facebook pages are filled with smiling photos from visitors. Ashley Tarzia of Bethel posted many photos from a visit to Maple Row.

“What a day! The Tarzia-Augusto Maple Row tree cutting and tailgating! 3 years going strong with friends that are family!”

Ralph Day of Stamford was also there earlier this month.

Neil McClure said his family buys an ornament every year when they get their tree from Jones Farm. — Neil McClure photo

“Been going here since I was little. Now I get to take my kids there. Always start of my Christmas season. Love this place and will continue my tradition every year,” he said.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, another visitor noted he and his wife have been coming here for about six years “and wouldn’t go anywhere else. They have the biggest selection and our tree is always so perfect and fresh.”  

Jessica Paine of Guilford went to Jones Family Farms Dec. 1. “I was amazed at the selection of trees they had. We spent well over an hour roaming the fields looking for the perfect tree. And we found a wonderful 11-foot Fraser fir. All the staff was pleasant and helpful. I will say, we visited on a Thursday afternoon so there were not many other visitors. If you want to avoid the crowds, go during the week. They still had trucks picking up trees in the fields, guys bailing the trees, the fire pit going, and the gift shop open, so I don’t think you’ll miss anything but the weekend crowd.”

Scott Edwards, one of the three partners at Maple Row Farm, said they get customers from all over Fairfield and Westchester counties. Demand seems to start earlier each year with the weekend after Thanksgiving usually being their busiest.

“We’ve been doing this since the 70s and I’m the 8th generation on the farm. We see second and third generations of families coming up. We see from little babies to the grandparents,” he said.

This large group posed for a photo at Jones Family Farm in late November.

Tom Harbinson, facilities and hospitality manager for Jones Family Farm and Winery, said he sees similar patterns.

“People are coming earlier in the season to obtain a tree,” he said, though he noted the snow makes for a nice backdrop. “It creates a lively setting for photographs and enjoying the whole adventure and the memories that are created. Memories are always in season and the memories that surround the holiday season are something very special, they become traditions.”

Jones Tree Farm