*This story was featured in the Collegian and on HCMediaOnline on Dec. 3.
Time-honored Christmas staples can be found at every turn during the holiday season. Christmas lights, Santa figurines and tall evergreen trees are must-haves embracing the Christmas spirit. But how do those trees come to fruition and make it into the homes of families across the Midwest? This is where the Glass family comes in.
Nytha and Dave Glass, owners and operators of the Pine Patch Tree Farm on 26th and Elm, have spent the past 10 years cultivating a number of different types of trees, while also perfecting the growth and sale of them. The Pine Patch offers a number of different types of trees and wreaths, including Canaan Fir, Scotch Pine and Spruce trees. The Glasses have taken their dedication to the farm to the next level by living in the house adjacent to the farm and fully embracing the entire process that comes with operating the farm.
“During the year, the main thing is to make sure [the trees] get enough water. We have to supplement the rain a little bit. I have a pump, so I’m able to overhead sprinkle the farm,” Dave Glass said. “It takes about five days, night and day, to put an inch [of water] on the farm.”
That extra effort to ensure proper hydration is imperative to the long-term health of the trees. Dave Glass emphasizes that the Christmas tree business is not a quick-fix business model and that it takes years before an owner actually sees any finished product.
“It’s two weeks of selling trees and 50 weeks of making them live,” Dave Glass said. “At the end of April we plant about 600 trees on the farm, and they’re about 18 inches tall. In the first year they don’t grow a whole lot. They grow about a foot a year, so it takes seven or eight years to grow six or seven-foot Christmas tree.”
A combination of rising costs and long-term work associated with owning a tree farm can be attributed to the dwindling numbers of farms across the state and country. Despite the decline in numbers, Glass still manages to have fun on the farm.
“Ten years ago there were 45 farms in the state, and today there are about 20. For the size of the tree farm I have, it’s more than just a hobby,” Dave Glass said. “It’s been a lot of fun and we really enjoy it.”
Dave Glass isn’t the only one who enjoys his time on the farm. Hastings College Senior Joe Kindig has been working at the Pine Patch for four seasons now and accredits Dave Glass for its warm and friendly environment.
“I would definitely say that working here is a pleasant atmosphere. [I’ve] tried to go to a couple different tree farms locally in Nebraska, and it’s just pushing customers in and out the door to get their Christmas trees,” Kindig said. “It’s just a fun atmosphere to hang and work with Dave.”
That atmosphere established by Dave Glass, coupled with the personal attention to detail, keeps customers returning each season.
“It’s not an exchange of money, but really an exchange of friendship. Half of our clients we know somehow or we will deliver to their house personally,” Kindig said. “It’s more of a personal basis, and Dave has really set the foundation for that.”
Both Dave Glass, the Secretary Treasurer of the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), and Kindig have recently been involved with the NCTA’s Trees for Troops program. The program provides real Christmas trees to armed forces members and their families in the U.S. and stationed overseas.
“I like the fact that we can give a troop something that was home grown right here in the U.S.,” Kindig said. “[It’s] something that reminds them of home and not only home, but the memories that surround a Christmas tree and what they are fighting for.”
At the end of the day, the family atmosphere is what really stands out about the Pine Patch Tree Farm. Many businesses claim this dynamic, but rarely do people embrace it quite like they do. Kindig and other employees even refer to Dave as grandpa.
“Dave is obviously the veteran of the group and we like to give him a hard time. [Even though] he’s 63, he can still haul a Christmas tree. He’s a professional Christmas tree wrangler,” Kindig said. “He can handle his own with all of the young guys here, and in the last couple years we’ve started calling him grandpa because he’s a figure to look up to.”