Pioneer Tree Farm {McHenry}

Our holiday season is always kicked off by a trip to the Christmas tree lot. I just adore the smell and ambiance of a fresh tree but this year I was ready for a new experience. My husband has often reminisced about cutting down his own tree every Christmas while visiting his grandparents in northern Wisconsin and, now that the kids were big enough, I was ready to continue this tradition with our own family.


After reading Little Lake County’s list of local tree farms we decided to head to Pioneer Tree Farm in McHenry. Not only was it only 20 minutes from our home but it is also an organic tree farm which, after reading of the many pesticides used in growing Christmas trees, was very important to me. And, for those of you who feel guilty chopping down a tree, you will be comforted to know that they are considered to be a highly sustainable crop and one acre of Christmas trees provides enough oxygen to support 18 people. Plus an environmental consulting firm out of Montreal has found that an artificial tree would have to be used for more than 20 years to be greener than buying a fresh cut tree, and a trade group of artificial tree makers even found in their own report that it would take at least 10 years… as always the truth is probably someplace in the middle. These trees are local, sustainable, pesticide free, and will last much longer than a tree from a lot because you are chopping it down yourself rather than it being cut days or even weeks before Thanksgiving. Plus, Pioneer Tree Farm donates 10% of their tree sales to the Environmental Defenders of McHenry county.

Pioneer Tree Farm McHenry
© K. Kempf | Little Lake | 2012

So we visited the farm on a sunny Saturday morning with my family and in-laws. I will admit that at first I was a bit concerned, these trees were small and relative sparse but I had expected that, I knew there was a drought this summer and reminded myself that this was more about the experience rather than simply finding a perfect tree. After getting some information from the attendant, we hopped on a wagon and rode out to the field to find our tree.There are acres and acres of trees of all kinds and most trees were under 6-7’. After walking around for a good half hour and hedging our bets, we found it, our tree. While we had gotten fir trees in the past, I was ready for a change and this nice little pine tree was just right so my husband started cutting (which admittedly took less than a minute).


Pioneer Tree Farm McHenry
©K. Kempf | Little Lake | 2012
Then we found my husband’s parents and helped them get their tree before heading back to have our tree shaken and baled, all included of course. This is when the real fun began. We all went to the warming house for some hot cocoa and to check out their holiday crafts and baked goods. Once we were sufficiently warmed up, we went outside again where we dipped our own candles and made a wooden holder.
The kids loved this and now they want us to eat dinner by candle light every evening so our candles are almost burned out already. After feeding their chickens and watching the blacksmith demonstration, we sat by the fire before heading home. Trees are $45 each and hot cocoa and other activities are included although gratuity is appreciated if you choose to make a candle or holder. They are open the next two weekends before they close on the 9th but, the sooner you visit, the better your choices will be.
The farm is staffed mostly by the owners and volunteers and every one of them went out of their way to be friendly and helpful. All in all we spent two and a half hours there and had a wonderful time. We truly felt like we had stepped back in time despite still being so close to home. It was clearly more than just a quick trip to get a tree. The kids of course insist that we have to go back every year, and I agree with them. It was a wonderful experience for all of us and a great way to kick off our holiday celebrations.

Our little pine tree, picked out and decorated (except lights, I have to draw the line somewhere) by a five and three year old.

Pioneer Tree Farm McHenry
© K. Kempf | Little Lake | 2012

Pioneer Tree Farm
Open Saturdays and Sundays – see website for this years dates and times
4614 Pioneer Road, McHenry | 815-385-8512


Do you cut your own tree? We’d love to hear about your favorite tree farm.

About Kristy 12 Articles
Kristy is the mother of two young children, who join in her quest for unique restaurants, fun places to play and a little personal sanity in the process. She does her best to teach her children healthy habits, kindness, compassion and a love of nature while also learning that sometimes we need to let go of our ideals in the name of fun.

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