FOREST CITY | For some families, choosing their own tree at the Fisher Christmas Tree Farm near Forest City is a beloved holiday tradition.
Blair Fisher, son of tree farm owner Mark Fisher, said he enjoys seeing the repeat customers come back each year.
"It's great to catch up with them," he said.
Blair said he especially enjoys it when parents bring their children to help pick out a tree.
"The kids are just running wild up here and having a ball," Blair said.
Every year people drive from as far as an hour and half away to get their Christmas tree at the farm, he said.
Four varieties are available: Fraser Fir, Cannan Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce, and Scotch Pine.
The farm is only open three weekends a year: the weekend before Thanksgiving, the weekend after Thanksgiving and the weekend after that.
This year on opening day, snow that fell the night before clung to the evergreens, turning the farm look like a picture on the cover of a Christmas card.
Business was slow in the morning because of slippery road conditions, but things picked up in the afternoon.
Amanda and Mike Orlowski of Hanlontown came to the farm on opening day to pick their tree. It was their first time there.
Mike said they usually buy a pre-cut tree, but this year they decided to cut their own tree at the farm after Amanda heard about it from one of her co-workers.
Mike said he likes having live Christmas trees because of how they smell and look.
"No fake tree can look as good as a real tree," he said.
Before starting the tree farm, the Fishers used the 16 acres of land they own east of Forest City for deer hunting.
They decided to grow and sell trees there as a way to raise some revenue to pay for it.
"I just love to grow stuff," Mark said.
He studied the different kinds of evergreens and how to grow them. He also got a lot of help from the Iowa Christmas Tree Growers Association.
Mark planted his first evergreen tree at the farm in 1979. His trees were mature enough to begin selling during the mid-1980s.
Some of the trees Mark plants are harvested when they are big enough and taken to the Fishers Christmas Tree lot in Clear Lake. The others remain at the farm so customers can cut their own.
Blair began working in the family's tree business when he was a freshman in high school.
He prunes the trees during the summer so they are the right shape for a Christmas tree. He also works at the farm during the pre-Christmas harvest season.
A big part of the business is the nursery stock grown in buckets that the Fishers sell to the owners of farms and acreages to be planted to create windbreaks.
Mark said they sell only several hundred Christmas trees every year, but sell several thousand of the seedlings.
"It's kind of fun to do something that you know is helping the environment," he said.
The nursery stock also has a quicker turnaround period than the Christmas trees. Mark said the process of growing nursery stock only takes four years.
Mark said some customers not only come every year to get a tree, but come on the same weekend each time.
"It's a family tradition more than anything," he said.
One of his favorite stories is about a grandmother who came to the farm one year with her children and five or six grandchildren ranging in age from around 8 to 15.
Mark told them they could cut down one of the trees near the parking lot and warming shed, or they could go a quarter of a mile down the road where some bigger trees are located.
He said most people drive down the road rather than walk so they can load their tree into their vehicle right there and not have to carry it back.
However, the grandmother, who looked like she was around 70, said she and her family would walk.
Mark said he later saw them walking back, with all of them -- including the kids -- carrying the tree.
"And she's been back ever since with the same crew," Mark said.
As much as Mark loves growing the trees, he said it's even more fun to see "families coming to the farm and creating memories that will last a lifetime."
The farm is located at 22630 Oakridge Valley Road, Forest City.
Visit northiowachristmastrees.com or the Fisher Trees page on Facebook for more information.