Archive for Thursday, December 18, 2008

Local tree farmer grows holiday cheer

Steve Richardson from the Lawrence Arts Center visited Prairie Elf Christmas Trees to cut down a Christmas tree for the center.

December 18, 2008

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All-natural holiday tradition

Real or fake, pine or plastic? Every year, Kathy Heeb caters to hundreds of Lawrence and Douglas County-area families who prefer real Christmas trees over their plastic counterparts.

When it comes to growing Christmas trees, Kathy Heeb says nature is in control.

“It’s one of those things you don’t get immediate gratification from,” she said. “Nature takes its course.”

Heeb, owner of the farm Prairie Elf Christmas Trees, 765 E. 750 Road, plants 1,000 Christmas trees – Austrian, Scotch, white pines and others – every year. For the next six years, she patiently waits for those trees to grow.

“The color of the tree, the density of the tree, it all depends on the weather,” she said.

Heeb grows about 5,500 trees on her farm, near Lone Star Lake. She says it’s an agritourist family wonderland: Christmas trees, hayrack rides, hot cider and cookies. She hopes every family who visits will take home a bit of that feeling with the Christmas tree.

The farm has closed for the 2008 season. In December, her farm donated a 14-foot tree to the Lawrence Arts Center. The tree weighed nearly 300 pounds, Heeb said, and was too big for the farm to keep.

Steve Richardson and Susan Rieger, both of whom work at the Lawrence Arts Center, took advantage of a special situation when they cut their tree down on Dec. 8. They were given privilege to use a chainsaw, while other visitors to the farm must use a hand saw. Reiger said preschoolers at the center would decorate the tree.

She said the tree would be on display in the two-story lobby of the center, adding a minty pine aroma to the air.

“It’s a huge tradition for many people,” Rieger said. “It’s something of nature, inside for the season.”

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