Central Texas tree farm experiencing its best opening ever for a live Christmas tree season
MERIDIAN, Texas (KWTX) - The owners of a Central Texas Christmas tree farm sitting on nine acres of land that’s been part of a local family since 1946, but sold its first tree in 1991, say they are experiencing the best live Christmas tree season opening since they started selling trees three decades ago.
Kathy and Kenneth Radde have owned Radde Tannenbaum Christmas Tree Farm since 1986 on land in Meridian that’s been in the family since the World War 2 era.
“We planted our first trees in 1986 and sold five in 1991. We’ve been doing it since,” Kenneth said.
The past 30 years brought a lot of success and thousands of tree sales, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic made predicting sales a bit tougher in recent years.
The Raddes say they honestly didn’t know what to expect when they opened up to shoppers on Black Friday, but what they ended up experiencing the last three days is unlike anything the couple has ever seen.
“There’s no question,” Kenneth said when asked if it was his best start to the season yet.
“It has been the best opening day ever,” Kathy added. “I mean, we were unprepared for so many more people coming. We thought last year was our best opening ever but this year out-did it by far.”
The Raddes estimate they’ve sold 400 trees and counting in the first three days since the opening of the 2021 season, and that includes Saturday, when rain slowed the stream of customers visiting the farm.
The business of this season comes on the heels of a unique 2020.
Not only was COVID looming last year, but Kenneth was recovering from a freak summer accident and a spider mite invasion.
On August 26, 2020, a small tractor toppled over and landed on top of Kenneth in a pasture, leaving him pinned for more than four hours.
He recovered, but was unable to tend to the trees daily.
While hundreds of trees were spared, the couple says spider mites got to 200 of the trees.
“I think there’s at least 200 trees that were damaged, that were green one week and half brown the next, and we just cried that we knew that we were going to have costumers come and not have trees for some,” Kathy said.
2020 ended up being a great year for sales, but it was nothing compared to 2021.
The line was long Friday, Saturday and Sunday as families picked out the perfect Afghan pine to cut down.
Others opted to buy the precut Fraser Firs trees, often grown commercially for sale as Christmas trees, and unrivaled for holiday use because of their fresh fragrance and symmetrical shape. Those trees were brought in on big rigs from North Carolina.
We came to cut a Christmas tree down,” said Halley Lindsay, a mother of three. “Mainly, just for the experience. We wanted the boys not just to go to a store, but to come and cut one down.”
The Guerrero family, including son Jorge, 13, drove from Waxahachie to continue a tradition they started eight years ago.
“It was fun cutting it down,” Jorge said as he secured the tree in the back of a trailer his family drove. “I just like the experience and it’s our tradition to come out here every year.”
Kathy said carrying on the tradition and starting a new one for so many families is behind the boom in business.
“People just want the real thing. People want to come be outside,” Kathy said. “They’ve been cooped out during these last two years. They want to come out and let their children look around and find the perfect tree and cut it down or find a wonderful Fraser Fir that’s going to just make their home beautiful for Christmas.”
The only trees left to cut down are between 5 and 6 feet.
There are still plenty of Frasier Firs available around 6-8 feet tall.
The Radde Tannenbaum Christmas Tree Farm open each day at 9 a.m. and closes at dark.
The farm closes for the Christmas season when the last tree sells, which Kenneth and Kathy believe will be sometime in the next five to seven days.
Copyright 2021 KWTX. All rights reserved.