BORDEN – There's a lot that goes into running a Christmas tree farm. For Mike Meyer, owner of Meyer Christmas Trees, it took more than soil and sunshine to make his trees, and business, grow. It took 40 acres of land peppered with trees and 40 years of work.
“You have to have plenty of patience because it takes 10 years to get an 8-foot-tall tree. Every year, you have to keep planting so you have more in the rotation,” said Laura Meyer, Mike's wife and co-owner of the farm, which is in southern Indiana's Clark Count, about 20 miles northwest of Louisville, Kentucky.
Mike planted his first batch of trees around 1977 and made his first sale in 1982. That year, five total customers took home a tree Meyer had planted for their Christmas tree. It would take six years before they turned a profit.
“That's the thing – it takes a long, long time,” Mike said.
The business grew, and at one point, the couple had as many as 40,000 spruces and firs thriving on their property.
Though the customers cut down their own tree, the Meyers do plenty of their own work throughout the year to keep things running.
“Not a lot of people know this, but you have to shear them each year,” Laura said. Shearing gives each tree the perfect cone shape we are all used to, and timing is key, particularly when it comes the crowd-pleasing pine varietal.
“If you shear them too late, they die back and if you shear them too early they'll start growing again,” Mike says.
In November and December, customers come to the small operation down a gravel road and take to the fields for their annual pick.
Mike and Laura both say a large part of their base is repeat customers whom they've gotten to know over the years. They are now getting third- or fourth-generation customers.
Seeing those customers is one thing Mike will miss when the farm closes. No trees have been planted in five or fix years, he said, and next year will be open only on weekends or if someone stops by.
The two are hoping to officially retire and enjoy time off together year-round.
But there are still about 1,000 trees to pick from this year. Next year, that number drops to about 500.
“It takes a lot of time to get in it,” he said, “and a lot of time to get out of it.”