Have you always wanted to cut down your own Christmas tree? Perhaps you grew up with an artificial one and can’t think of a better way to break with tradition. Maybe a trip to a choose-and-cut farm is a beloved Christmas ritual you keep alive or hope to revive. Whatever the case, as a Maine resident you’re in the perfect place.
Our largely rural state is New England’s top Christmas tree grower – the harvest totaled 195,833 trees in 2012 (the latest agricultural census), up from 164,406 in 2002 – and most residents don’t live too far from a cut-your-own operation. If a farm is a bit of a drive, put on some holiday music and travel in the slow lane. On the way and at your destination, take note of the vistas and rolling landscapes – unobscured by leaves and heavy snow they can seem transformed. Who knows? Visions of holiday to-do lists may just stop dancing in your head.
We’ve spotlighted a few choose-and-cut operations (they stock precuts, too) that offer an old-fashioned holiday outing, the sort that prompts families to return year after year, even generation after generation, and inspires many a Christmas card photo. Also making our cut: a nature preserve where you can cut down a wild tree. You also can search for Christmas tree farms at Maine Department of Agriculture’s getrealgetmaine.com (click on “Find Food & Farms,” then “Other Farm Products,” then “Christmas Trees”).
The farms on our list also make and sell wreaths, kissing balls, garland, etc. Most have gift shops, and all serve courtesy warm drinks. One establishment has hayrides and carolers, and Santa Claus visits a few of the places – in any case there’s something special for the kids. Not that anything trumps romping through the fields to find the tree. Whatever its shape and size, you’ll enjoy the outdoors with family or friends at a time of year when dropping temperatures and the lack of snowpack (usually), not to mention hunting season, can make that harder to do. What a great Christmas gift.
193 Whitten Road, Kennebunk; holmestreefarm.com; 207-985-3778; open Tuesday to Sunday from Nov. 27 through Christmas Eve
Luckily this business has continued to expand since its founding more than 30 years ago: a small building that once housed the gift shop is now Santa’s workshop. He’ll be there from 10 to 2 on the three weekends after Thanksgiving. A food wagon sets up on Saturdays and Sundays, as does a cider donut maker. When the farm is open, free cider mulls on the woodstove in the gift shop at one end of the barn. At the other end and in covered areas outside are displays with the farm’s impressive selection of wreaths, swags, kissing balls and garland. Spread across rolling hills marked by a knoll, the 75-acre farm west of Interstate 95 has been an agricultural operation since 1742. Christmastime visitors come from not only Maine, but New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and even New Jersey.
140 Egypt Road, Raymond; balsamridgechristmas.com; 207-655-4474; open daily Nov. 21 to Dec. 20
Besides growing Christmas trees, this 22-year-old farm taps maple trees—a winning holiday combination. The gift shop doesn’t merely sell maple syrup in decorative jugs and glass bottles. There’s maple cream, butter and sugar; maple-coated nuts; and maple treats (soft and hard candy, needhams, fudge, whoopie pies). Holiday gift packages are made to order, and shoppers enjoy watching workers decorate wreaths, which are displayed outside on the porch. On weekends, hot cider is sold, and there’s free hot chocolate. There’s always free candy canes and coloring books for kids, who love resident horses Ginger and Rex—the pair often greets visitors. Snowman and Christmas tree cutouts are a nice photo op, as are those horses.
18 Christmas Tree Way, Windham; on Facebook; 207-892-7231; open daily Nov. 27 through at least Dec. 20
Tailgating isn’t just for football games: some Staples customers make it part of their annual Christmas tree-cutting excursion. No need to bring drinks on weekends as the farm serves free hot chocolate. Santa is on hand Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 2 on the three weekends following Thanksgiving. Decades ago owner Fred Staples cut trees in the wild and sold them in Portland’s Deering Oaks Park. These days he sells some unpruned “natural” trees as well as the fuller pruned ones most customers want. Along with wreaths and kissing balls, the farm sells greens for mailboxes.
27 Trundy Road, Newburgh; pipermtn.com; 207-234-4300; open daily Nov. 27 through Christmas Eve
A trip to this 185-acre farm, named for the highest of the surrounding hills and selling Christmas trees since 1978, is a holiday tradition for many families in Bangor and coastal towns like Belfast. The good-sized gift shop is known for its large ornament selection, from glass balls to sports-themed choices. Snow globes and handmade table runners are among the many decorative items. Wreaths and greenery are displayed in the barn, and there’s a Christmas tree cutout for photos. Free (donation jar) hot spiced cider, coffee and homemade donuts are served, and children get a free coloring book and candy cane. Families come on weekends for hayrides (charge). Hampden Academy Voices Unlimited sings carols Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon on the two weekends after Thanksgiving.