It was just after lunch on a weekday before Thanksgiving and the stream of people coming to buy Christmas trees was slow but steady. That was a welcome reality for Dave Cook. He and his wife Barb own Cooks’ Woods, the Christmas tree farm located just a few miles east of Fennimore. When they first started, nary a customer arrived before Thanksgiving, but these days they seem to show up just a little earlier each year.
Dave had already been out working on the farm. For now, he was in the barn retail space.
Located in the byre where the animals once sheltered, the room is lined with wreaths and garland, one corner holding a neat pile of pegged tree stands, a retail counter near the door holding a display of Cooks’ Woods Maple Syrup. Upstairs, in the barn’s mow, a display of Christmas trees – half a dozen varieties of pine and fir – stand on temporary wooden bases made from two pieces of crossed lumber. Strands of industrial work lighting float overhead, hanging from the rafters, lighting the chilly cavern space.
Dave is discussing a tree a customer from Iowa, accompanied by her teenage son, are purchasing. He narrows down which hill the tree came from in order to determine the type she had bought, later explaining that tree breeding had advanced to the point, “some of the balsam varieties look more and more like a Frasier fir,” making it difficult even for the grower to differentiate at a glance.
Next came netting the tree and he had a new employee to instruct as the customers looked on. Positioning the tree base first on the netting machine, he explains how the equipment works to the young man he’s hired to work on the farm for the season. Dave understands learning from doing, and while he makes the occasional gesture to demonstrate, he walks the youth through, allowing him to pull the tree through to become a compressed, 8’ long bundle of greenery, before they carry it to the drilling set-up that will prepare it to go on one of the three-legged tree stands sold in the store.
For the full article, please see the Nov. 30, 2017 issue of the Fennimore Times.