As a child, Christmas was always a special time of the year. Traditions, food, movie-watching. Wishing all the year through for sports equipment, or video games.

One thing I never wished for, or had any thought about doing, was living — and working — on a Christmas tree farm.

But like the unfolding of a bad Hallmark Channel movie, that’s what fell into my lap this past fall. My girlfriend, Brandi, became interested in the Fishers Christmas Tree Farm, located just 1 mile from the house in which we were living on Route 3 in Belfast. And after a successful season of selling trees, it feels like the weight of Christmas is on our shoulders to open the place to visitors again next year.

I thought she was kidding at first, but I should have known better. We’ve been together for nearly six years, and whenever she’s gotten an idea in her head that she’s strongly behind, she will move heaven and earth to see that it happens (side effects to such an attitude usually involve long ‘Honey-Do’ lists and an exhausted partner). We had basically wrapped up her latest project, the house we lived in at 150 Belmont Ave., a ranch-style house on 3.5 acres of land that we had spent the past two years flipping (while watching hours of HGTV for ideas). This, however, would easily be the biggest project we’ve ever taken on.

The house itself was gigantic, painted white with red trim. It looked like it could be one of Santa Claus’s vacation homes. It came with a barn — used as a store during the Christmas season — with a full-fledged sleigh full of boxes dressed up like Christmas presents, surrounded by Christmas lights and protected by Plexiglas. The display gives a great visual for drivers passing by during the evenings. And, of course, there was the property itself. About 12 acres, with at least half of it full of Christmas trees.

Dave Dyer’s home in Belfast, which is also a Christmas tree farm. Staff photo by Dave Dyer

We ended up getting the farm. Thanks to a pre-buy deal, half the land was sold to two neighbors, significantly lowering the asking price. By October, we were in the house. One lingering question remained: Do we ACTUALLY sell Christmas trees this holiday season?

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones wondering. Fishers Christmas Tree Farm had been in business for about 20 years, so as soon as we bought the house, people knocked on our door at random asking if we’d be in business. From Halloween until we made our decision, this was a normal occurrence.

By Thanksgiving, we finally decided we would sell Christmas trees. Thanks to the help (and tools) of previous owners Gary and Melba Fisher, we at least had a small head start on the season for two newbies with ZERO experience in this area. The closest I had ever come to selling Christmas trees in my past was dating the daughter of a Christmas tree farmer during my college days. I helped him sell trees at his lot in Manchester, New Hampshire, once or twice, but I never really took notes, and I only helped lift trees to people’s vehicles.

We decided to keep it simple: Drive on the property, cut your own tree. We’ll provide saws, tarp and (for a short time) wrap to help get it vehicle-ready. But like most plans in life, nothing comes that easy.

The field of Christmas trees at Dave Dyer’s home in Belfast, looking less full after selling more than 200 trees. Kennebec Journal photo by Dave Dyer

We NEVER anticipated just how busy it would get when we opened. We sold 100 trees the very first weekend. Every person who came onto the property, I had to give the same spiel. Where the property line was. Cut your own tree. Free hot chocolate in the barn when you’re done. Over and over and over.

That was just one aspect of it. A good chunk of my time was spent putting trees through the wrap machine, essentially putting the tree through a ring connected to a mesh wrap. It’s a heck of a back and shoulder workout if you pull, I don’t know, 60 trees through the machine in one afternoon. We smartened up after a day, connecting a crank and pulley system to get the trees through instead.

Thankfully, we had help along the way. Troy and Kelley McGray, along with their son, Brody, were tremendous each of the weekends we sold trees. Kelley sold wreaths out of the barn store, while Troy and Brody helped me with trees. Troy — who has actually done tree work — was the resident expert of the group, and any technical questions were sent his way. Brody — a strapping young lad pushed by the spirit of Christmas (and if possible, the occasional tip) — helped carry trees to vehicles.

I lifted trees, I dragged trees. I helped the occasional person cut down trees (realizing that the saws we were providing weren’t the sharpest on the planet). I literally tagged and bagged trees. Every possible scenario — short of being a Christmas ornament — I was involved in with the trees.

On the positive side, the outpouring of gratitude toward keeping the tree farm going was overwhelming. I can’t tell you how many people came to me, telling stories about how they’ve been loyal customers for years, how happy they were we were still selling trees, and asking us if we were planning on doing it again next year.

After two weekends and well over 200 sales later, we shut down, nearly sold out for the season. The field is still full of trees, but none that are cut-ready. They’re more of the Charlie Brown-tree style, small and skinny. We’ve yet to decide if we will, in fact, open again next year. We’d have to do some tree planting, and it’s a year-round job to maintain them. I’ve told everyone to knock on my door on Halloween for a firm answer.

For now, we’ll just enjoy our new home, making some memories, telling the tale of how we survived at least one season with our new Christmas tree farm.


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