The traditions of Christmas are many and varied, depending on your cultural heritage and family practice. In our family there was always a fresh cut tree to decorate at Christmas, partly because that was the family business! Tens of thousands of trees have come from the Corsi Tree Farm in southern Ohio. It was started in 1955 by my parents and grandparents. My Father and Grandfather were partners in the beginning, Grandpa furnished the land and facilitated sales and Dad performed the manual labour. And, as usual, Grandma and Mom were their invaluable support crew!
In the beginning Dad even tried to grow his own seedlings and I remember as young children on hot, humid summer mornings my brothers and I helping to weed the seed beds, and chasing away the turtle doves that would try to eat the seed. My Dad’s version of growing trees for Christmas was very labour intensive, because like everything he did, he wanted to produce the very best tree he could. In the spring new seedlings were planted, in summer the trees would be trimmed, so that they would be more compact and have a nicer shape for decorating. In autumn the weeds needed to be mown to minimise fire hazard, and once the trees had reached harvesting size, in about 7-10 years after planting, they were cut and baled and loaded onto delivery trucks to be taken to the retail lots around the Cincinnati area.
Dad and Grandpa had entered into a business with very little experience and had to learn as they went. It was unbelievably hard some years, not just working in the fields during all kinds of weather, but negotiating with businesses who wanted to make money off the hard work of Dad and his crew. One year, when my grandfather had just died and Dad had to shoulder the entire business, the wholesale buyer tried to pay far less than the trees were worth. Dad, a man of deep principle said he would burn them before he would be dictated to on price that was less than they deserved. True to his word, he destroyed many of the trees that had already been cut that year.
Dad always said he was a ‘farmer’ and we all know how heartbreaking farming can be. Some of that heartbreak would spill over into the holiday for us as we watched the toll it took on our Dad. My brothers worked for Dad for many years and it took a toll on them as well. But we all prevailed. Eventually my youngest brother (see photo) bought the business and, learning from Dad’s experience, was able to mitigate some of the difficulties. He has improved some things and put his own stamp onto the business, but it is still farming, and farming is hard work.
Thousands of people in the Cincinnati area will travel to the Corsi Tree Farm this year, not just to cut their own Christmas tree, but to have an old fashioned experience with country music, animals and hospitality. It is probably a tradition that will disappear one day, but for now it is alive and well in Hamersville, Ohio. This will be the first year since he started the business Dad will not visit the farm at Christmas. He passed away earlier this year but his legacy lives on.