Drive out down Coleman Road towards the Alberni Valley Regional Airport, and you’ll find three U-Cut Christmas Tree Farms, all with plenty of selection for your perfect Christmas tree this holiday season.
The first stop is Tara Christmas Trees. The 25-acre farm was formerly owned by the Kirkpatricks, but was purchased by Robbie and Olive O’Dwyer a few years ago.
The farm is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors are provided with a saw and a cart so they can explore the farm’s selection of four different kinds of trees: noble, douglas and grand firs, as well as white pines.
The farm lost a number of trees this year due to weather conditions, said Olive O’Dwyer.
“It was a very harsh winter, then a wet spring, then a dry summer,” she said.
But the tree farm is still standing strong. The trees are replanted every year, then take around seven to eight years to grow fully.
The farm also features a number of “fairy door trails,” inspired by the farm Olive grew up on in Ireland. Children enjoy exploring these trails almost as much as they enjoy the complimentary hot chocolate, hot dogs and marshmallows around the campfire.
Tara Christmas Trees will also have pre-cut trees available at Canadian Tire starting on Friday, Dec. 8.
The next stop on the way to the airport is the ADSS U-Cut Farm. This farm is managed by Alberni District Secondary School students (or “elves”), and all proceeds from Christmas tree sales go towards the rugby programs and the sustainable resource program at ADSS.
Kids can stop by the heated Santa’s Workshop, where they can take part in arts and crafts and enjoy hot dogs, hot chocolate and Christmas music.
The tree farm is open on Fridays from 2 p.m. to dusk, and weekends from 9 a.m. to dusk, until Sunday, Dec. 17. ADSS will also have a number of pre-cut trees at the school grounds on the weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until Sunday, Dec. 17. You can choose from douglas, noble or grand firs or sequoias.
The last stop is Tom’s Trees, which is located past the airport (just follow the “Tom’s Trees” signs). Tom Verbrugge has been in business for 21 years, ever since his operation was merely a canvas tarp shelter. Christmas trees are a family business, as Tom’s son also owns and operates the Whiskey Creek U-Cut operation just outside of Port Alberni.
“Most of my customers are repeats,” said Verbrugge. “It becomes tradition.”
Although, he added, he notices more and more new faces each year.
“U-Pick is generally picking up,” he said. “I’m pretty pleased with this.”
His farm is located on 10 and a half hectares of land, in a low-grow area where it takes around 12 years for a tree to grow. Verbrugge waits for the trees to reach a certain height before he begins shearing.
The farm is open every weekend in December from 10 a.m. to dusk. He offers noble, grand and douglas firs. Pre-cut trees are also available at the high school and at No Frills.
“I sold about 2,000 trees this year to Campbell River, Comox, Courtenay,” he added.
Like Tara Christmas Trees, Verbrugge also lost about 100 trees this year because of the drought.
Despite this, and despite all the action from the nearby airport expansion, Verbrugge has still remained in business, and still enjoys seeing customers both new and old arriving every year.
“Some of them are here for the hot dogs, some of them are here for the trees,” he said.