After three decades of owning and operating a Christmas tree farm

U-cut trees enjoy resurgence in Alberni

The experience of gathering Christmas trees outdoors is drawing people to tree lots in Port Alberni.

Gerry Kirkpatrick always thought selling Christmas trees would be a recession-proof business.

Out of work from the logging industry in 1981, Kirkpatrick got the idea to grow and sell Christmas trees.

“I could see there was a hole that needed to be filled for quality trees,” he said.

He leased an eight-and-a-half-mile strip of land underneath the BC Hydro power lines and began to clear and plant roughly 100 acres of trees.

“I planted 30,000 trees for the first five years,” he said. He had to hire up to eight people to help him groom the trees in the 1990s, when business boomed.

About 14 years ago he sourced another lot near the Alberni Valley Airport, and slowly began clearing it while getting rid of his existing stock on the power line.

He has worked this lot for the past nine years. Kirkpatrick and his wife Connie have operated Kirkpatrick Christmas Trees for 31 years in total, including a retail lot near Zellers.

Today, Kirkpatrick says u-cut tree lots are enjoying a resurgence in popularity.

“I have had customers tell me they have returned to a real tree because of the u-cut experience and got rid of their plastic tree,” he said.

Kirkpatrick visited a tree farm in Hawaii many years ago and the owner told him customers buying her trees on a retail lot grumbled at the $10 price tag. Yet she didn’t have enough parking for the people visiting her tree lot to cut down their own tree for $25.

Mica Verbrugge has also been in the Christmas tree business for a long time, even though he is only 29 years old.

Verbrugge owns and operates Whiskey Creek U-Cut, the original u-cut lot in Central Vancouver Island according to Kirkpatrick.

Verbrugge grew up working on his father Tom’s Christmas tree lot. He also has fond memories of his own family’s tradition of cutting their own tree.

“We used to bundle up with six other families. I remember snow and trees and hotdogs over the fire,” he says.

When the opportunity presented itself to work for another grower and eventually buy that tree farm, Mica jumped. He farms 60 acres under the power line with a team of four people.

They collective put in 1,200 hours a year sculpting the trees in preparation for the Christmas season.

Verbrugge is also in the business of creating family memories, this time for others. He has several fire pits where families can roast hotdogs and drink free hot chocolate while they are out choosing their own trees.

Whiskey Creek U-cut is less than 30 kilometres east of Port Alberni, just off the highway on Melrose. It is well marked, and popular with people from Port Alberni as well as Oceanside.

Tom Verbrugge, Mica’s father, got into the Christmas tree business 16 years ago after working in the logging industry. He acquired a 40-acre lot near the airport and started cultivating trees.

Tom’s Trees sells a variety of trees, but his most popular is Douglas Fir.

Like his son, Tom Verbrugge also offers free hot chocolate and hotdogs and a warm fire for people who visit his farm.

Tom also has a retail lot at Walmart.

While Tom Verbrugge would be the first to tell you that breaking into the Christmas tree business is hard work, Kirkpatrick says it’s a rewarding job.

“It’s the only business I know that you get gratification from it,” he says. “I get so many comments…on how positive the experience is. People are happy when they’re buying a Christmas tree.”

Ye still need a tree?

◆ STILL LOOKING FOR A CHRISTMAS TREE? Kirkpatrick and Tom’s Trees u-cut lots in Port Alberni are open through the weekend, barring heavy snow. Also Whiskey Creek U-Cut.

◆ TREES CAN also be found at Kirkpatrick’s lot on Third and Angus (across from Zellers), Tom’s Trees at Walmart and Naesgaar’ds Farm Market.

◆ NAESGAARD’S also has a Christmas Wonderland full of decorations set up.

editor@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews

With files from Wawmeesh Hamilton, Alberni Valley News

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Coast Trail to remain closed for now

Federal government won’t open world-famous trek until its First Nations are ready for visitors

New gazebo for Victoria Quay opens with help from Alberni Rotary club

A new gazebo that has been erected at Victoria Quay is the… Continue reading

New Vancouver Island airline eyes Alberni’s airport for charter flights

ACRD has work to do to support air operations, says GM of environmental services

True crime podcaster on mid Island inspired by case of missing Island woman

‘Island Crime’ Season 1 covers 2002 disappearance of 21-year-old Lisa Marie Young

Alberni Valley Community Foundation releases second round of emergency funding

The Alberni Valley Community Foundation will provide $75,000 to support local charities… Continue reading

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

An ongoing updated list of Alberni Valley events affected by COVID-19

Has your event been cancelled or postponed? Check here

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

As SD84 schools look to reopen, Kyuquot and Zeballos opt out

Schools in Tahsis and Gold River will open on June 1, with 30 per cent students expected to come in

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

Most Read