CORNING – It takes eight to 10 years to grow a Christmas tree from seedling, and, according to Shearer Tree Farm & Nursery owner Fred Shearer, most farmers who get into the Christmas-tree trade call it quits after just 15 years or so.
“It’s not a short-term progress,” said Fred. “We’ve been doing this for about 35 years, and we’re still learners.”
“People just get weary of it,” said Fred’s wife Linda Shearer. “They get old and just can’t do it anymore. But for us, it’s our customers. That’s why we keep doing it — people rely on us.”
Fred and Linda purchased 20 acres just outside of Corning city limits in 1981. The pair worked at the school in Corning before deciding to run a choose-and-cut Christmas tree farm from their property.
According to Fred, the regional Christmas-tree market has changed a lot over the past few decades.
“At one point, all the tree farms around us closed and so we were the only ones left,” said Fred. “For about two years, we’d have people come and it was like a hoard of locusts. They’d cut everything that was bigger than 5 feet.”
Since then, competition has increased a bit, though the couple still sees customers come from as far as Hopkins, Missouri; Maryville, Missouri; Kellerton, Mount Ayr and Grant City, Missouri, to buy a tree. The Shearers’ busiest weekend is the first weekend after Thanksgiving.
The Shearers sell several types of trees, including predominantly Scotch Pines and Fraser Firs. The Scotch Pines, which the couple grow on site, will grow to about 7 feet tall before being sold, and the firs, which come direct from a Christmas tree farm in Wisconsin, can range in height from 6 to 13 feet.
“Folks love [the Fraser Firs] because they’re really soft,” said Fred. “They’ll hold their needles, too, so when they’re ready to come down you don’t have a lot of vacuuming to do.”
The Shearers also bring in White Pine trees to sell to churches or other organizations that might want a larger, more decorative tree. According to Fred, they don’t hold ornaments as well as the Fraser Firs or Scotch Pines, but can reasonably support garlands.
Fred’s thoughts on the real vs. artificial Christmas tree debate are simple: it’s all about preference.
“It’s such a personal thing,” said Fred. “For anybody that’s had real trees, they tend to be committed to them. I mean yeah they’re a little dirty, and they may get a bug in them now and then, but people that love real trees, really love them.”
To go along with the couple’s commercial tree farm, Fred has also planted, he estimates, somewhere around 20,000 trees in the Corning area simply in the name of community improvement in his 50 years living there.
In addition to Christmas tree, wreath, swag and other greenery sales, the Shearers have a variety of spring hardwood trees, shrubs and roses available for sale from April through June. Also on location, the Shearers operate a small gift shop selling tree ornaments and other Christmas items.
Shearer Tree Farm & Nursery is located at at 1870 220th St. in Corning. Its hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and it can be reached at 641-322-4736.