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Christmas Spirit, Trees Abound At Sawtooth Farm

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By Joe Foreman, Editor

For Norm and Gretchen Riemersma and their daughter Rachel, growing and selling fresh Christmas trees is more about tradition, spreading holiday cheer and catching up with old friends than it is about the bottom line of their family business.

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Since they began selling Christmas trees from Sawtooth Farm north of Glenwood seven years ago, the family has established a growing base of customers who come back every year to find the perfect tree. Sawtooth Farm is one of only a few Christmas tree farms in southwest Iowa and attracts families from as far away as Red Oak, Clarinda, Plattsmouth and Bennington, Neb.

“It provides a service to the community we don’t have,” Gretchen said. “Many people grew up cutting their own trees. We have families that come back every year. It’s a tradition for them – we’ve watched their children grow up. We have kids that come out here and this is their only chance to walk through trees like this. It’s a special experience for them.”

Regular customers of Sawtooth Farm know there’s only one weekend in early December when they can come to the farm to purchase their trees. This year’s tree sale weekend is right around the corner, Dec. 1 and 2. The farm will be open to the public from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. both days.

Some customers have already stopped by the farm to “tag” the tree they want, but no cutting will be done in advance of this weekend’s event.

“None of the trees are cut ahead of time, so it will be a very busy weekend around here,” Norm noted.

The Christmas tree experience at Sawtooth Farm includes not only selecting a tree, but also enjoying holiday refreshments, like cider, cookies and bread. Many of the refreshments are prepared by friends and neighbors of the Riemersmas, who come by to help out with the annual tree sale.

Norm handles most of the tree cutting duties, but customers who want to do the job themselves are allowed to do so with a handsaw. There are more than 3,000 trees on the farm – a variety of pines, firs and spruces – coming in all shapes and sizes.

“The white pine is a popular tree now – it’s soft,” Gretchen said. “The firs and spruces are more traditional and the Scotch pine is popular because it can handle more weight than some of the others.”

Like many of the families that come to their farm, each member of the Riemersma family has a favorite type of Christmas tree – Norm favors the concolor fir, Gretchen likes the Meyers spruce and Rachel is partial to the Scotch pine.

“I enjoy talking to people about their tree and how they’re going to decorate it,” Gretchen said. “My favorite question to ask is,’What color lights do you put on your tree?’”

The price structure for trees at Sawtooth Farm is a simple one – all pines are $35 and all spruces and firs are $45 - no matter the size, Norm said customers are guaranteed getting a fresh-cut, high-quality tree at Sawtooth Farm.

“I just like people getting real trees as opposed to plastic trees made in China or somewhere else,” he said. “Quality is important to me. I would rather market fewer trees with a higher quality.”

Every tree at the farm is planted by hand and chemicals are avoided. Bagworms and other pests attracted to the trees are removed by hand, Norm pointed out.

The reputation Sawtooth Farm has earned for the quality of its trees is evident by the fact that five Christmas trees from the farm are being displayed this year at the Lied Lodge and Conference Center / Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, the home of Arbor Day.

Sawtooth Farm is located at 52257 Brookside Ave, a quarter mile south of the U.S. Highway 275 - Barrus Road intersection.