By Abbey Doyle
The Herald Bulletin
FORTVILLE, Ind. —
Jayson Parker remembers going out to a Christmas tree farm with his parents in tow as a kid and picking out the “perfect” tree. Those memories are ones he is trying to create with his own children now.
“It is the way we kick off Christmas,” Parker said of picking out and cutting down his own tree with his family. “It is a tradition, something the kids really enjoy doing. I hope this is something they will do with their children.”
This was the first year Parker and his three kids — Tatum, 12, Tynan, 9, and Truitt, 6 — came to Piney Acres Christmas Tree Farm in Fortville but he said they’d definitely be back.
“They make the whole experience fun,” he said. “There’s hot cocoa and popcorn after that we enjoyed on the porch while they bagged up the tree and Santa was there. It was a nice full day out of the house, getting fresh air, enjoying Christmas as a family and creating memories.”
Those memories are the ones that Rex Zenor, owner of the family-operated Piney Acres, is excited to create. They started the farm in 2000 planting more than 50 acres of trees. Tree sales began in 2004. Later the Zenor family added fall activities to the farm to make a multi-season business with a pumpkin patch, hayrides, corn maze, gem mine, kids play area and haunted loft.
Since he was a kid, Zenor thought abaut being a tree farmer. But it became an even clearer dream several years ago when he was standing in a conventional tree lot with his daughter and saw that everyone was laughing and smiling.
“It hit me right then, ‘This is what I want to do,’” he said of that day in 1980. He’s been working since then to get to that point when they found the land and made the dream a reality. Zenor was a custom home builder before he “retired” to the tree farm business.
“Here, we aren’t just a tree farm, it’s an entire experience,” he said. “When you come, you walk into a nice heated building with a snack bar, indoor facilities and a retail area. You will be greeted and we will explain how everything works. You can meander through the barn where we have some trees set up, and wreaths for sale.”
There is a “pre-cut” lot with freshly cut trees right off of the barn or patrons can hop on a wagon pulled by a tractor taking tree hunters to the fields. Each family is given a map showing them where each different kind of tree is found. Once they pick their tree and cut it down they just drag it back to the roads that run throughout the fields so the tree and family can be picked back up by the wagon.
Once back at the farm, each family is given free hot chocolate and popcorn to enjoy while the tree is being processed and loading on the vehicle.
“All they have to do is have a good time,” Zenor said excitedly. “I want to inspire people to understand the true meaning of Christmas, the specialness of it all. When I see the kids enjoying the atmosphere and watch mom or dad interact with the child, that is what all this is about. I don’t feel like families get to have that family time; there’s a shortage of that.”
The farm has a variety of trees — Canaan fir, Concolor fir, Douglas fir, Norway spruce, Colorado blue spruce, White pine, Scotch pine and precut imported Frasier and Noble fir trees — ranging in size from 3 feet to 20 feet. The trees are charged by the foot — $6.75 per foot for scotch and white pines and $10 a foot for the others.
Zenor said the business has seen growth every year. He said he knows some people just like artificial trees, but in his mind there are many bonuses to a fresh-cut, hand-picked live tree.
“You can’t get any fresher then cutting the tree down yourself,” he said. “And there is no way to get that fragrance with an artificial tree. That smell can bring back so many memories. Just pulling a tree out of a box and plugging it in, to me that’s not Christmas.”
Parker said the first fir they saw was the one they ended up getting, after checking out several others, just to be sure. “The whole process — the trip there watching Christmas movies, picking out the tree, cutting it down, cocoa and pop corn, putting the tree up and decorating it — is something we all enjoy so much,” he said. “It brings back memories for me and makes me feel really close with my children. We are creating something special, something I hope they remember and share with their children one day.”
Find Abbey Doyle on Facebook and @heraldbulletin on Twitter, or call 640-4805.