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21Country: Christmas in July

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ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WPTA21) - For a couple months of the year, the St. Joe Christmas Tree Farm is a beloved place to spend the holiday season for families in 21Country.

But the key to caring for the perfect Christmas Tree, happens all year-long.

Owners Mike and Judy Reifenberg bought the farm back in 1999.

“It’s kind of a strange story,” Mike told us, “we came out to this area… we were looking at a piece of land that was 12 acres and decided that was just way too much property, we couldn’t do it!”

“And on the way back from there, we drove past the Christmas Tree Farm,” he continued, “and we just said, what the heck! Instead of 12 acres we bought 48 or 50!”

Mike still works a full-time job, as an accountant.

Judy, a retired nurse and real estate agent, dedicates all her attention now, to the farm.

“Work really is year-round. We go into planting, fertilizing, gotta herbicide,” she told us, “and now we’re in the summer months, so it’s mowing, weed whacking, pulling the vines out of the trees, getting between the trees, checking the trees for bugs, checking the trees for damage - it’s just ongoing, continuous, cycle after cycle.”

Decisions Mike and Judy make, are carefully calculated, and often have unpredictable results.

They have to play “the long-game” when managing a Christmas tree farm.

“It takes seven to ten years from when we plant it, as a seedling, to a harvestable tree,” Mike explained.

Judy added, “and then we have to decide, what do the customers want in seven to ten years? Ten years ago, the number one selling tree off of our farm was the Scotch Pine. Today, it’s the Fraser Fur, and we have about half an acre that will grow Fraser Fur.”

After managing the land for over two decades, Mike and Judy are beginning to plan for the future of the farm after their ownership.

Their hope is to keep it in the family, but if that doesn’t work out, the next best option is to make sure it continues to operate as a Christmas tree farm.

“We’ve had some families approach us, but we’re not ready yet. We’re just not ready yet,” Judy told us.

Mike said, “It’s fun to watch the little kids having a good time out here.”

Judy continued, “Whether they cut a tree down out here, or get a pre-cut they have a ball!”

They exude their love and passion for growing trees, and maintaining a business appreciated by the community every holiday season.

Though ‘Christmas in July’ is something fun to imagine at the St. Joe Christmas Tree Farm, reality of the holidays fast approaching, is always in the back of the Reifenberg’s mind.

“It will come very quickly,” Judy said, “and we’ll start gearing up the week after Labor Day, and that’s when its all hands on deck!”

“We’ll have like 30 employees… for like four weeks,” Mike shared, “and then its done, and then you’re tired, and then Santa and Mrs claus take a nice nap!”

The farm’s annual Fall & Christmas Market Fest is planned for October 9, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The St. Joe Christmas Tree Farm gift shop will open, a honey producer, and over 25 craft and sales vendors will be present.

For updates, you can follow the farm on their Facebook page here.

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Daniel Beals

Daniel Beals is the producer of the ABC21 feature franchise “21Country”. He is constantly on the lookout for ideas that capture the “people, places, things, and history” that makes Northeast Indiana unique. Feel free to reach out: dbeals@wpta21.com.

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