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Scherle Tree Farm

Tradition in the trees at Scherle Tree Farm
Creating holiday memories for generations

Christmas trees aren’t always jingle bells and tinsel. Growing just one Christmas tree takes a lot of labor, resources and time.

Ask Don and Eileen Scherle of Scherle Tree Farm near Dubois, Indiana. For the past 48 years, they have been planting, mowing, trimming and monitoring miles of trees to produce perfect specimens for the Christmas season. Thousands of trees later, Scherle Tree Farm is the last remaining tree farm in Dubois County.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” Don said. “It’s basically a year-round job. But we’re as happy as can be when we can keep moving at our age.” At 77, Don and Eileen both still work year-round, getting down on their hands and knees when needed.

Don said growing trees is laborious and requires great patience. It takes about 10 to 12 years to produce a quality Christmas tree. Deer, disease, bagworms and other factors play a part in whether a tree makes it to harvest. The Scherles plant about 11,000 trees each year and about 70% survive. At one time, Don and Eileen had 110,000 Christmas trees on the property.

Producing the perfect tree means something always needs doing.

Mowing and sheering are vital for tree growth. Mowing between trees prevents weed build up while sheering shapes trees and encourages proper growth. Sheering is done between June 1 and July 15. Don and his team use long, serrated knives to shape trees and shorten their leader, the central stem atop the tree. This helps the tree to grow and develop the ideal shape. While sheering is among the most difficult tasks, it is Don’s favorite part.

“When you look back to see all the trees you’ve sheared, there is nothing prettier,” Don said with a smile. “Then you look at the woolly ones you have ahead of you. You just have to look back and admire the trees you’ve done.”

For Eileen, the best part is the selling season when she greets longtime and new customers alike.

Many families make a tradition of picking and cutting their Christmas tree, coming on the same day every year. One family has been coming for 35 years – passing down the tradition from generation to generation. One group came to visit by the busload. Another family has been coming for five generations and brings 60 people every year to harvest trees for their homes. Many visitors make a day out of their trip to Scherle Tree Farm by packing a grill and hanging out on the tailgate of their pickup trucks.

Like their customers, Don and Eileen share a generational family connection. After all, Scherle
Tree Farm is a family operation. During the busiest times of the year, Don and Eileen are helped by a long list of family and friends: daughter Dana Young and her husband, Rob; daughter Jana Clayton and her husband, Rusty; son Ryan Scherle; many grandchildren and several close friends.

While Don and Eileen now share a passion for growing trees, running a Christmas tree operation wasn’t their original plan when they bought their farm in 1973. Neither had a background in tree production. They had experience with cattle, corn and soybeans. The couple even raised bison on the farm for over 10 years.

Their plans changed in fall 1974 when Don attended a Christmas tree growers meeting in Evansville, Indiana. A farming buddy suggested Don might make more money on his hilly land planting Christmas trees instead of corn and soybeans – and he was right. After returning from the meeting, Eileen said it didn’t take much convincing for her to get on board.The Scherles planted their first trees in 1975.

These days the Scherles open their farm for sales on Thanksgiving Day and are open each weekend during the Christmas season. Besides selling trees, they also sell wreaths, stands, and greenery. The real treat for the customers is the candy canes, peanuts, and Eileen's homemade cookies.

Despite the hard work and long days that go into Christmas tree production, the Scherles agree it’s worth it. From seeing return customers each year to new adventures every day, there is never a dull moment on the farm.
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