Things looked pretty relaxed at the Hillcrest Orchard salesroom last Friday, as manager Terre Van Harren and veteran orchardist Bob Johnson prepared for the season’s last hurrah—the Christmas tree harvest.
While Hillcrest does have a variety of freshly cut trees available for their customers, a big draw is the cut-your-own tree option. The Christmas tree season opened Friday and Van Harren, in her sixth season at Hillcrest, was prepared. There was plenty of hot apple cider and hot cocoa for those on their way in or out to cut trees.
How much fun is selling Christmas trees?
“It’s a blast,” according to Van Harren. “Everybody comes in with the kids and the family. Everybody is happy. The whole Christmas tree thing is really fun.”
Hillcrest will be open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. selling Christmas trees and more until Friday, Dec. 23.
“We’re not open for Christmas,” Van Harren said with a smile. The Christmas tree season means closing the salesroom until next spring. Pruning, maintenance and other work continues at the orchard through the winter.
Hillcrest grows and sells Fraser firs, balsams, blue spruce as well as Scotch and white pines. The firs are $30 and the pines are $15. It will cost you $5 more, if you take one of the pre-cut trees. Hillcrest also charges $1 extra for every foot over 12 feet.
In addition to Christmas trees, Hillcrest also sells wreaths and evergreen boughs. There are also handcrafted gifts and lots of custom made food products including maple syrup, honey, pickles, salsas and more.
“There are still lots of high quality apples available at half price,” Van Harren pointed out. The best keeper is probably Empire and the orchard manager said she was still eating refrigerated Empire apples in March last year.
Despite all the other goodies available in the orchard salesroom, the real game afoot at Hillcrest right now is Christmas trees. Last year, they sold 220 of them retail and some more in the wholesale market.
Hillcrest grows about seven acres of Christmas trees, replanting some every year, according to owner Bob Zimpel. The orchard planted the first trees about 20 years ago.
“It’s something that helps us extend our retail season,” Zimpel explained. “We enjoy seeing the families come out to cut trees. It’s a nice part of the Christmas tradition.”
There’s nothing like a fresh-cut tree at a good price and locally there’s no better place to find one than the Hillcrest Orchard located in Rolling Ground at the intersection of Highway 61 and 171. And if you’re not totally prepared to cut your own tree, Terre has handsaws and a big roll of baling twine for you to use. Hillcrest can also net your tree for ease of transportation.
When you’ve cut your tree, there’s another bonus next door at the Rolling Ground Bar and Grill. Rolling Ground’s friendly owners, Ron and Bonnie Murphy, have some of the better sandwiches in the area and a great view of the orchards. Like Hillcrest, Rolling Ground is a family friendly kind of place.