Holiday cheer at local tree farms

Deal’s Orchard and Kris Kringla Tree Farm create family traditions

-Messenger photo by Darcy Dougherty Maulsby
Jerald Deal, right, and an employee at Deal’s Orchard run a newly-cut Christmas tree through the netting machine so the customer can transport the tree home more easily.

JEFFERSON — Jerald and Cindy Deal sometimes wait until Dec. 23 or 24 to put up their Christmas tree.

But there’s a good reason for that — they’re busy supplying hundreds of live Christmas trees to other families during the holidays.

“We sold a Christmas tree on Dec. 24 last year,” said Jerald Deal, 66, who is the third generation of his family to operate Deal’s Orchard, near Jefferson. “We really enjoy this time of year. Everyone tends to be in a good mood when they come here.”

The Deals began planting Christmas trees in 1999 to help diversify the apple orchard business on their Century Farm. Customers were able to choose and cut their own trees for the first time at Deal’s in 2005.

“We had always been open until Christmas anyway each year, so we figured Christmas trees could help add another income source,” said Deal, whose Christmas tree farm and gift shop are open seven days a week until right before Christmas.

Customers can choose from Scotch pines, concolor firs, Douglas firs, Canaan firs and white spruce, all of which are grown on 4 acres on the Deal’s farm.

Also available are Frasier firs that are shipped in from Virginia.

“Frasier firs like to grow in sandier soils than we have here in Iowa,” Deal said.

Most customers purchase trees ranging from 6 to 7 feet tall, while some select taller trees.

Each tree is sold by the foot, which prices ranging from $35 to more than $100 per tree.

The Christmas tree business continues to grow for the Deal family.

“Last year we sold about 450 trees, and this year we were already 50 trees ahead of that by early December,” Deal said. “For every tree we cut down, we plant two more to keep up with the demand and the challenges of Mother Nature.”

Family traditions are created at Deal’s

The unseasonably warm weather in November into the first few days of December likely encouraged more people to venture out to the farm this year.

“The weekend right after Thanksgiving and the first weekend in December are prime time for selling Christmas trees,” said Deal, who works alongside his wife and their three sons, Benji, Chris and Rob.

Deal’s Orchard has many new customers each year, along with loyal customers who come back year after year. Families enjoy picking out their tree, sampling free popcorn, cookies and apple cider in the gift shop, and completing some holiday shopping.

James and Kim Seratt, of Dawson, have been bringing their family to Deal’s Orchard year for the past 18 years.

“It’s a family tradition,” said Kim Seratt, who appreciates the friendly, helpful service. “This is an awesome place, and we have a lot of fun coming here with the kids.”

While some families like the Seratts have purchased live Christmas trees for years, others, like the Holtz family of Roselle, are just getting started.

“We love coming here each fall,” said Katie Holtz. “This year we decided we wanted to try a real Christmas tree for the first time and found what we wanted at Deal’s.”

It was a fun experience for Holtz, her husband, Clint, and their son, Evan, who is almost two.

“We like supporting local farmers,” said Clint Holtz.

For Deal, farming and family go together. Not only has he followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, Frank Deal, and his father, Forrest Deal, who were both in the orchard business, but he’s passing along his ag knowledge to the third and fourth generations of the Deal family.

“Christmas is a fun time for families to be together,” said Jerald Deal, who has five young grandchildren and two more on the way. “We’re glad to be part of families’ holiday memories.”