Woffords Tree Farm in Rural Valley makes Christmas memories

| Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, 11:20 p.m.

Christmas tree customers traveling to Woffords Tree Farm in Rural Valley know they are getting close when they turn onto 1030 Wofford Lane and continue down the winding tree-lined driveway to where the Wofford family's two friendly Labradors, Smudge and Buddy, are waiting with wagging tails.

It's the kind of place where returning customers come to buy freshly cut trees or wreaths fashioned from orange-scented fir branches and where children are handed candy canes and coloring books before heading home.

“The customers make it all worthwhile,” April Wofford said.

Trees sell for a flat rate of $30, and wreaths vary in price depending on size and shape.

April and her husband, Dan, own and operate the farm with help from their son Michael, 14, and daughter, Kaylee, 12.

Owning and operating a Christmas tree farm was not part of the couple's original plans.

April said they had been living in a trailer, planning to head out West, when they decided to buy the 86-acre farm in 1999 from one of Dan's relatives.

“We bought the house without even seeing it,” she said.

What they discovered was a lot of overgrown trees and acreage that needed constant care and replanting.

But it didn't take long before they started getting requests from people to buy trees, which they initially sold for $5 or $10.

“That's when we thought: ‘We can do this. We can sell trees,' ” April said.

So the Woffords bought an old bailer and purchased wreath frames and a press.

One of the overgrown trees on the property in those early days was a 50-foot Blue Spruce, which dwarfed the others.

She and Dan figured if they could manage to sell that tree, they would be true tree farmers.

“We sold it for $100,” she said. “It was shipped to Florida for their state tree.”

The Wofford family discovered that becoming true tree farmers takes a lot of work.

“We plant between 3,000 and 5,000 seedlings a year,” April said, adding that many of them have to be planted by hand because of the terrain or because numerous stumps or old growth make using a planter difficult.

The Woffords had been buying their seedlings from an area supplier, but this year had to order from an Oregon company.

That means a likely hike in next year's Christmas tree prices for customers, April said.

“What I used to buy locally, now I have to pay to get shipped in,” April said. “What money we have made goes right back into growing trees.”

And the family, which works as a team year round, puts in long hours at this time of year.

April said the work can be tiring, sometimes frustrating and physically difficult. It involves a lot of standing in the cold and eating on the run.

But the emotional payoff for all of them, April said, is seeing returning customers year after year — customers who have watched the Wofford children grow and whose own children continue to collect Christmas season memories from visiting the farm each year.

“We love our farm,” April said. “I couldn't imagine living anywhere else.”

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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