Slopey’s Tree Farm keeps tradition alive for 70 years
It’s the smell … the distinct and captivating aroma of a fresh-cut pine tree.
It’s the excitement … listening to the shoppers as they measure and admire dozens of trees and then profess that they’ve found just the right one.
It’s the pride … cutting down the perfect tree with a hand saw and hauling it out of the woods on a sled.
It’s the joy … decorating the evergreen with personalized pieces, shiny bulbs, lights and tinsel.
And it’s the sounds of delight … the ooh’s and aah’s as the glow of the stately evergreen tree in the corner of the living room brings Christmas to life for another year.
It’s not a scene from a movie or pictures from a book.
It’s what happens every year for local families who make the traditional trip to Slopey’s Tree Farm just before Christmastime.
Now 70 years old, the tree farm just outside Mill Hall has withstood the huge onslaught of artificial trees in recent years by continuing to offer folks a walk through the fields to select and cut down their very own Christmas tree from the thousands on the 20-acre property.
“There’s just something special about it that people really enjoy,” said Linda Slopey Andrus, owner of the tree farm that her grandfather Charles Slopey started in 1948. Linda took over the business about 15 years ago from her father, Donald Slopey, 87, now a resident of Nightingale’s Personal Care Home in Mill Hall.
And she says the business continues to be very healthy, selling up to 700 trees a year.
“I pretty much grew up on the farm,” Linda said, remembering when she and her sisters, Donna and Bonnie, and brother Kress used to help their father plant and care for the pines.
She said when her grandfather started planting trees he did it more as a hobby than a business and pretty much gave the trees away.
“In the beginning, it was just for enjoyment, I think. He wanted to give them to the community. Then he planted more and it turned into a real business,” she said.
Linda said her father was a school teacher in Levittown, and every summer the family came to the tree farm to work on the trees.
“Dad built a cabin up here and we stayed in it.” she said.
When her father had open heart surgery some years back, Linda said she started helping out with the planting, trimming and upkeep at the farm.
“It takes eight to 15 years to grow a tree seven feet tall,” she said.
“Every time a tree goes, we plant a new one in that same spot. There are thousands of trees out there,” she said, looking out over the vastness of the tree farm.
There’s certainly something to fill everyone’s needs and desires. From small four- or five-foot tall trees to those that tower 20 feet or more.
And there’s a large variety, she continued, mentioning Fraser fir, concolor, Douglas fir, white pine, blue spruce, white spruce, to name a few. Concolors, she said, smell like oranges and are one of the top sellers.
Most people know what they want when they arrive, she said, and she can direct them to the area where they will find that type of tree.
“We give them a saw and a sled to put the tree on to drag it out of the woods. We bale the tree and also have tree stands for the trees that are drilled,” she continued, pointing to the equipment outside the gift shop at the entrance to the tree farm.
On Saturdays and Sundays, there’s an open fire with benches so people can warm up and enjoy the lighted decorations while the rest of their family is searching for a tree or as the chosen one is being prepared for the ride home.
Linda said her family is most proud of being able to keep the price down. “It’s $35 for any tree… and we don’t do wholesale,” she said with conviction. “We don’t take credit cards either. It’s cash or check,” she said.
“This farm was started by my grandfather for the community. And that’s the way it will stay. We offer the community a memorable experience for families as well as a good product at a good price,” she continued.
Although the tree farm and gift shop are open for business for only about one month out of the year, Linda said taking care of the tree farm is a 12-month job. There’s lots of planting, pruning, trimming and other work that is done all year long to keep the trees healthy.
As for the gift shop, there’s pretty much everything a person would need to get a tree up and decorated, including lights, decorations, tree stands, tinsel and other items to put on and under the tree. The shop also offers a large assortment of gifts, many of them hand-made, and perfect for gift-giving.
“We open right after Thanksgiving and are open every day through Dec. 23. We’re closed on Christmas Eve,” she said.
Hours are Sunday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
So, if you haven’t gotten your Christmas tree yet this year, why not take a trip out to 93 Slopey’s Lane in Mill Hall and see why Slopey’s Tree Farm has survived for 70 years.
I think you’ll enjoy the visit.