Get that tree ... down on the farm


December 4, 2020

Olivia, Patrick, James, and Benjamin Bonander and Rory Butkiewicz tie a tree to the car to take it to its place of honor in the family's home for the holiday season.

For generations, families have bundled into layers and wandered in a winter wonderland in search of the perfect Christmas tree. The snow crunches underfoot, breaking the sound of silence as they walk between the trees before making a selection.

The traditional tree hunt continues unhindered this year, despite the many changes brought on by the pandemic at tree farms across Carlton County.

Perhaps the oldest family farm in Carlton County selling trees is the Butkiewicz Family Farm, established in 1904. Rory and Deb Butkiewicz live on the 116-year-old family farm with his dad, Louis, 87.

"My dad is still the boss," Rory said. He said they made many changes to the family dairy business over the years, including selling Christmas trees in the 1980s. Rory said eager loyal customers began calling before the tree farm was open this year.

He said there are hundreds of balsam and spruce trees to choose from, some up to 18 feet tall. Customers meander through the evergreens and cut their tree to haul back home. They do not pre-cut trees, although Rory said they will help cut for seniors.

The family requests customers call ahead to avoid crowding.

"Some families spend a few hours enjoying the experience," Rory said. He said there will be jams and jellies made from berries raised on the farm available for sale also.

Chub Lake Tree Farm is probably Carlton County's most well-known tree farm. Located on a 10-acre farm at 1867 East Chub Lake Road, Bev and Jim Whorton have been raising and selling trees there since 1985. This year they have about 7,500 trees, a wide selection ranging from 6- to 12 feet tall. Don't want to cut down your own tree? The Chub Lake farm also offers a selection of pre-cut trees, wreaths and more. The tree farm is open weekends from 10 a.m. until dark and Mondays through Fridays from 11 a.m. until dark. Covid-19 guidelines are being observed, and there are no food or beverages available this year.

Leaning Barn Farms is one of the newest local entries into the tree farm business.

Ann Gustafson said they planted this crop of spruce and white pine trees when they bought the farm around 2011; this is the second year they've sold trees, at $20 each.

She is quick to stress that they are not a "professional tree farm."

"Our trees are pretty, but they're natural," she said.

Gustafson said the Christmas trees are her dad's project, and he's in charge. As a science teacher, she likes the idea.

"I think it's great that it's taking so much carbon out of the atmosphere; they're great for sequestering carbon," Gustafson said.

She's right. Beyond supporting the local economy, the Christmas tree industry also provides environmental benefits to the state of Minnesota. Christmas tree farms plant as many as three new seedlings for each tree that is cut down. As they grow, the trees act as a carbon sink, pulling carbon dioxide out of the air.

Additionally, the trees can provide habitat for wildlife. Local trees travel a short distance to the customer to maintain freshness and reduce their carbon footprint further. They can also be recycled after the holiday season at several locations around the area, including the Cloquet Sappi mill.

People are invited to come and cut down a tree between 1:30-4:30 p.m. on the weekends or during the week by appointment (call 218-590-9230). Leaning Barn Farms is also selling already cut trees through the Streetcar in Carlton, for $25 each, with $5 of each purchase going to the Carlton PIE group.

Support your local tree farms

Here are some of the many local tree farms around the county*

Butkiewicz Family Farm

6710 Butkiewicz Road, Kettle River


Chub Lake Tree Farm

1867 East Chub Lake Road, Carlton


Vichorek Tree Farm

4462 Mills Road, Moose Lake


Hill Top Tree Farm

9458 Highway 2, Brookston


Leaning Barn Farms

176 Thomson Road, Esko


Jansson Tree Farm

2870 Carlson Road, Carlton


*Not on the list? Call 218-878-9332 to get your tree farm added to our list.

Want fresh trees fast?

B&B Market - Cloquet

Super One parking lot - Cloquet

Spur Station, County Highway 1 - Carlton

Streetcar Kitchen & Pub - Carlton


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