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Follow organic dairy farmer Jonathan Gates as he reports weekly from his Vermont family farm. Howmars Farm is a certified organic dairy farm, one of many Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative farmer members who supply the milk that goes into making Stonyfield's yogurts and smoothies. The entire family pitches in on this third-generation farm. Check out some of the happenings on his farm and post your comments. Jonathan loves to get feedback from readers.

Christmas tree season was a good one

With Christmas 2011 now a fond memory, I just wanted to share a few pictures and thoughts from this year's Christmas tree selling season. It was a long one, selling our first tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving and the last tree on the 23rd of December. The weather was usually pretty good, with warm temps the first weekend we were open, making cutting the trees a "sticky" chore. The other two weekends were more seasonable and we even had a little snow to make the trees even prettier. But it's the customers, family, friends, neighbors, new acquaintances, that makes the yearly selling of the trees such a great experience.

By the end of the weekend, I would be hoarse from visiting with everyone who came to cut a tree. And the stories they would tell, and the antics surrounding the cutting of the tree, are still making me smile. One local businessman who came with his wife to get a tree, told me about his father taking the kids to look for a tree in the woods. When his father would spot the top of a likely candidate, he would take his shotgun and shoot the top off the tree. Another customer, a woman who has been coming to the farm for several years, spent almost an hour picking out her tree. We chatted while I loaded her tree into her truck and I mentioned about my oldest son being a police officer. She then related the story of her father who had started as a mounted police officer in New York City, and then had taken the position of training the horses used by the police department. I told her I wished my son had been here to listen to her talk about her father.

The last Sunday we were open, I heard a strange squeaking and clanking coming up the woods road to the Christmas trees. I was delighted when a family who lives a half mile from the farm appeared in a small wagon being pulled by one of their horses. What a treat the see the three of them coming to get their tree the old-fashioned way. What a time not to have my camera!!!

The customer I will remember most was the woman who came two days before Christmas. A friend of ours knew someone who needed a tree, and I said I would be happy to help out despite the lateness in the season. The woman had lost her husband recently, and had her grown kids coming home for Christmas. She had told her kids she was going to a farm and was going to go out to the woods in a tractor and wagon to get a tree. She was sort of kidding her kids, so she was excited when that was exactly what happened. The two ladies rode in the wagon to the trees, found a tree for her family, and rode back to her truck. With the tree secured in the back of the truck, she headed home to have a hot meal ready for her kids who would be home soon. Later that evening, Karen had a call from our friend who told us how much it had meant to the woman to be able to come and get a tree for her family. It was the start of a new tradition after her loss. It just goes to show you that when you do someone a small kindness it can have a huge impact on their life.

So, 2011 is over, and a new year full of hope and promise begins. Let' s all make the most of it!


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Jonathan, do you have to prune and shape the trees every year, or just when they start? In what season do you prune them? We have a big field that is growing up in pine, hemlock and a few spruce. Maybe we should be farming some of them.

Hi Gates family, Wish you a Happy New Year. Thanks for the blog. It brings back my working farm days.

Thanks for the great story!!!! I loved it ♥

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