Where to cut your own Christmas tree

christmas tree farm beltramo

What other family tradition can involve small children and saws?

By Katie Beltramo

Here's updated info for 2012.

You've probably bought apples at a supermarket before, but isn't picking apples at a local orchard a much more satisfying experience? Sure, it takes more time, but you're embracing the season, getting a vastly superior product and supporting local farmers.

It's the same with cutting down your own fresh tree. It kind of turns an errand into an adventure. And we're lucky enough to live a short distance from several different Christmas tree farms.

Some people are intimidated by the prospect of actually cutting down a tree, but it's not difficult. Well, okay: it's not entirely easy, either. One farmer chuckled that some people don't anticipate that cutting down a tree will, in fact, involve physical labor. The effort involved will vary based on your motivation and your destination.

Getting to the trees from your car can be a quick walk, a long hike, or a ride on a trolley. Every tree farm listed below can provide a saw if you need one, and they will coach you on how to use it. Once you've found and cut down your tree, you need to bring it back to your car -- well, really, to the roof of your car. At some places, this is strictly the visitors' responsibility, but other farms will haul it, shake it to get the loose needles (and all that pesky nature) off, wrap it, and strap it to your car for you.

First, a few helpful cut your own tree tips:

christmas tree farms katie dragging treeRemember that it is a farm
Don't wear pretty shoes, because it's likely to be snowy or muddy, and you might trek around a bit to find the perfect tree. If your heart is set on a specific variety of tree, it's a good idea to call ahead to confirm that there are still some that haven't been cut down yet (the varieties listed below were confirmed on December 2nd).

Remember that it is winter
Layer for warmth and comfort, because it's likely to feel much chillier than it feels at home. Keep in mind, as well, that dusk falls early, and it gets dark quickly out there in a field. If you're going for the first time, arrive at 3 pm at the very latest. You don't want to feel rushed as you are looking for Your Perfect Tree.

Come prepared
Bringing a large plastic sled with a tow rope for pulling along trees and/or children can be helpful. Also bring some twine for getting the tree onto the car. Even if you're going to a farm where they'll help you, it's a good idea to have your own rope or bungee cord in case the workers get busy. If the farm doesn't sell refreshments, bring some coffee or cocoa. Oh, and bring a camera! Because you're making memories!

Here's a round-up of some local tree farms, big and small, with varying levels of assistance. Generally these prices include taxes.

Bob's Trees
christmas tree farms bobs trees reindeer1227 West Galway Road, West Galway
518-882-9455
Hours: 8 am-4:30 pm every day

Bob's has Santa Claus, live reindeer, children's activities, and food for sale on the weekends. They have weekend horse-drawn carriages for fun, but they're not used as transportation to the trees you'll be cutting down.

Trees:
Fraser Fir, Douglas Fir, Balsam Fir, White Spruce, Korean Fir, Canaan Fir. They have some trees that are 12-14 feet. Living trees are also available.

Help:
Maps and saws are provided, folks walk in and carry out their own trees. On the weekends, volunteers help prepare and tie trees on cars as a fundraising activity.

Cost:
$45 for all trees

Cloud Nine Tree Farm
567 Knox Cave Road, Knox
872-1331 (residence phone as well)
This is a small family business.

Trees:
Fraser Fir, Douglas Fir, a few Blue Spruce. Many trees are a bit overgrown or younger--few mid-size. Some trees are recently planted enough that they could be dug up for replanting.

Hours:
By appointment

Help:
Saws are provided, and they'll help if you need it.

Cost:
$30 for all trees

Ellms' Christmas Trees
christmas tree farms ellms trees468 Charlton Road, Ballston Spa
(518) 885-7377

They'll have Santa and live reindeer the first two weekends of December. Complimentary cup of cocoa and other drinks and snacks available for purchase.

Trees:
Frasier Fir, Balsam Fir, Blue Spruce, White Spruce, Douglas Fir, Concolor Fir. They have trees up to 13 feet.

Hours:
10 am 'til dark during the week, open 8:30 am on weekends

Help:
Ride a trolley out & back to fields, maps and saws are provided, as well as handy tree-carrying carts. Tree shaking, wrapping, and assistance getting onto the car are included.

Cost:
$39 and up

Majestic Tree Farm
185 Pictuay Road, Selkirk
767-2443

A small, friendly, family business

Trees:
Balsam Fir, Blue Spruce, Fraser Fir, White Pine, White Spruce, Norway Spruce

Hours:
9 am to 5 pm Wednesdays to Sunday

Help:
Saws are provided, and they'll help carry your tree out of the fields, shake & wrap it and tie it to your car.

Cost:
Under 4 feet tall: $20, over 4 feet tall: $38

McDonough's Farm
28 Gilligan Road, East Greenbush
(518) 477-4841
Another small, family business.

Trees:
Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Canaan Fir

Hours:
9 am until dark

Help:
Walk out into the field and cut your own or "pick and pay". Saws are provided, and your tree (and you) can ride the tractor back to your car, where they'll help you get it onto the car, too.

Cost:
$50 for all trees


Van Etten Tree Farm
2000 Berne-Altamont Road (Rte. 156), Altamont
872-1895

Van Etten has pony rides, petting animals, a bonfire, and a snack shack to purchase hot chocolate and homemade cookies on the weekends.

Trees:
Balsam Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce, Fraser Fir, Norway Spruce, Scotch Pine, White Pine, White Spruce. Living Christmas trees are available.

Hours:
9 am to 4 pm each day

Help:
Visitors walk in, cut, and carry the trees out themselves. They have a few saws to loan, but bring one if you have it. On the weekends there are hayrides to the fields.

Cost: $30

Been to any of these farms? We'd love to hear about the experience. Any other suggestions? Let us know.

Katie writes about fun family stuff to do in the Capital Region at CapitalDistrictFun.com

farm photos via the respective farms

Comments

Best of luck to those cutting their own trees. My husband and I abandoned the idea after last year's debacle. Bill cut his hand on the saw, the tree fell on my 3 year old (no harm, but lots of crying), half way home, the tree nearly fell off the top of the car (had to pull over and re-tie). I think my kids are permanately scarred from the experience - we had our tree delivered this year. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.

We've been cutting our own tree for 23 or 24 years. I have three pieces of advice:

1) Go when the ground is frozen.

2) If the ground is not frozen, leave the darn dogs at home.

3) Don't accidentally tie the car doors closed.

My goodness Angela, sounds like a Chevy Chase moment! I'd abandon it too.

Here's a plug for Van Etten Farm. Friendly folks and a great experience, and their snack shack/warming hut is a welcome respite after being out in the cold cutting down your tree. Dress warm and enjoy.

We like going to Ellm's for the reindeer and snacks. We've never actually cut down a tree there, as it has always just been the two kids and I, and it seemed too overwhelming! We may actually do it next year, though.

We have gone to Elms for several years running. It has always been kind of pricey, but this year it seemed even more so. Both my friend and I paid $65 for our trees and they aren't overly big. Plus, it took lots of walking to find a really good one. I think we'll check Van Ettans next year.

Went to Ellms the past 7 years but after last year won't go back. They are friendly enough and have a lot of fun things going on there but they don't have any trees! They have a few new fields with seedling sized trees but nothing in the 7 and up range...last year we walked with 3 small kids for over 2 hours and left with nothing except crying heartbroken kids, wet feet and cold bodies! We still desire a real tree though so thanks Kate for giving us other options.

We went to Ellms last year and had a good experience, however based upon the comments above we decided to try another location this year. Just came back from Bob's Trees, total chaos and if you want/need any help with anything, forget it, you are on your own. You may pay a bit more at Ellms, but for our family, the costumer service you receive with your tree purchase is worth it...going back to Ellms next year.

Thanks for this - we went to Majestic Tree Farm today. It was great - friendly, helpful, lots of choice and a shaky machine. More here.

I am surprised to hear the comments about Bob's Trees not being helpful to customers, as they have always gone above and beyond to help me anytime I've needed it. We have been going to Bob's for over 20 years, and would not go anywhere else. The trees are just beautiful, and the prices are great! My guess is that if you went on a busy weekend with a couple thousand other people, you had problems, as no one could possibly give personal attention to that many people at once. I hope you'll give them another try, Jaime, perhaps on a weekday next time, as they are very friendly people and have such beautiful wreaths and kissing balls too.

we've often gone to van etten's, but now, with grandchildren who have never cut a tree, it's an extra special treat to ride the tractor-drawn haywagon to the back fields, find the perfect tree, then go back for hot chocolate and a pony ride. On a really cold and blustery day, it's easier to find the best tree - the closer to the car, the better a tree looks! Have fun!

2011: Just returned from Van Ettens. Cut your own: nothing 7 feet or taller. Poor selection at 6 feet. If you want a shrimpy 3 to five footer, they have plenty. The staff is friendly; pony rides are a hit. They had goats and rabbits to pet, snacks in the snack shack. We bought one of their precut trees, which was imported. Limited selection there too.

We are relatively new to the Capital District, and last year (our first Christmas here) we waited too long to get our tree and the two cut your own places were completely out.

This year, we tried Bob's and I think that is where we'll be getting our trees from now on. My kids loved the reindeer and had fun with the put-your-face-in-the-cutout-and-take-pictures things. They also got to visit with Santa and have their pictures taken in the sleigh (all free!). We rode the horse drawn carriage twice, and though they don't TECHNICALLY take you to the field for tree selection, they will stop the carriage and let you out if you happen to see THE tree (which we did!).

We also went back out to the field a second time and gathered up some extra branches from previously cut trees (free of charge!) which I will be using to make our own wreaths and window baskets with :)

All in all, a great day and the start of a fun family tradition!

Luv Van Ettens, been there 5 years in a row, but they ran out of trees by 2010. Never been anywhere else. I just called Weathered Willow Tree Farm, and they are sold out for this season already! Wow. Called Cloud Nine, the lady said the people who are in charge of that are not available today. Not very good service for Dec 2nd. After watching "the exile's" clip, I think we'll try Majestic this year. Thanks for all the comments, it helped :) Karen

Just talked about this year's visit to Bob's on Capital District Fun, and a reader passed along info. on a place I didn't find for the post last year. I'm copying it fyi.

http://www.baileytrees.com/

Reader said, "We went to Bob’s last year, and it was okay. But this year – went to Bailey’s Family Tree Farm and enjoyed it much more! We had a hard time picking two trees – there were so many beautiful trees! Two fields, one on either side of the street, with very nice maps, easy directions and even labeled fields – imagine that! The owners drive around and if you don’t want to drag your tree in, they will load it on their vehicle and drive it up for you! Then we took a short ride and ended our adventure with some yummy Ice Cream Man ice cream! Definitely a repeat plan for next year!"

Still don't know how people miss out on Veeders. Ever since moving to the Cap District we drive down 9W every November a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving to the tag the tree, then go back the first weekend in December to cut. They are the best.

Veeder's Tree Farm - Tree Wrapping, tall trees are available, Pre-tagging, Shaking & Mechanical Cleaning, saws are provided,
Earlton, NY 12058. Phone: 518-731-8585. Directions: Route 81 Earlton then High Hill Road south 1 and a half miles. Open: Phone for dates and hours.
Christmas tree varieties:
U-Choose & Cut your own: Blue Spruce, White Spruce, Douglas Fir, Concolor Fir, Fraser Fir, Balsam Fir, Canaan Fir.

Thanks to Patrick's comment, we went to VEEDER'S yesterday and were amazed by the variety in size and species of their trees. We bought one there. If you're looking for a large tree, they have them as well.
We also went to three other tree farms yesterday. Here's an assessment.
CLOUD 9 in Knox is pretty well closed down. Their farm has turned into a lovely forest. They don't even put up signs anymore.
VAN ETTENS still has terrific peripherals: hay rides, pony rides, very pleasant staff, etc, but their trees are all quite small -- maybe 4-6 feet.
MAJESTIC in Selkirk had only short trees that were kind of pudgy looking -- all within view of their parking lot.
Of the places we went, the trees were far and away the best at Veeders. (all trees $43 any size, $2 for wrapping)

McDonough's Farm in East Greenbush is where it's at! There's a few tractors that circle the property and once you've found the tree of your dreams one of the workers will cut if for you and meet you at the parking lot with it. And the cost is much cheaper then if you were to purchase at a tree stand. The cost is $50 which is a lot less then what we've spent in the past on trees much smaller. Two thumbs up!

do any of these tree farms accept american express?

Wolfes Christmas trees-We will be open 12/14/13 and 12/15/13. We have 6-8ft. Cut your own, Balsam and Fraser Fir 6 ft.-8ft. just up the hill from Altamont,
88 Curtis Road, East Berne, NY. Cell 331-6685

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