Nothing symbolizes Christmas like a fragrant evergreen sparkling with ornaments, tinsel and lights.
One Oakland County farm that invites families to choose and cut their own trees has been sharing the tradition for decades. Candy Cane Christmas Tree Farm is a family-owned business with roots reaching back more than 40 years. For a few weekends each season, thousands of families make the trek to the 16-acre farm to find the perfect tree.
“It’s a really, really friendly atmosphere,” says Catherine Genovese, who founded the farm with her late husband, Frank, in 1977. “Most people come out with family and run into neighbors and friends. We like to see people come happy and leave happy. That’s our whole reason for being, to provide a nice opening for the Christmas season.”
If you visit Candy Cane Christmas Tree Farm, expect to drive into the Genoveses’ sprawling property and be welcomed by the farm’s experienced staff, who will answer any questions you have about selecting your tree.
You’ll be given a bow saw and sent to stroll among rows of evergreens to find your favorite as Christmas carols spread holiday cheer throughout the field.
Once you’ve felled your fir, carts are available to help you wheel it back to the servicing area. There, crew members will shake it out and wrap it up for the trip home.
Don’t miss the chance to stop by the barn to visit St. Nick, sip hot cocoa and cider, and shop a collection of homemade wreaths, garlands, Christmas tree stands and accessories.
“We have a wonderful Santa to greet the children, and it’s a great place to warm up,” Genovese says.
The farm opens the weekend before Thanksgiving and continues operation until the inventory of mature trees has been exhausted. After Dec. 10, Genovese recommends checking the website or social media to see if the farm is still open.
O CHRISTMAS TREES
When Catherine and Frank Genovese bought the land to start Candy Cane Christmas Tree Farm, they planted saplings on the property with an eye to the future.
“We were both working full-time jobs and didn’t realize at the time the effort that it would take,” Genovese says. “We learned as we went.”
Catherine says Frank was a hard worker, dedicated to eco-friendly practices and innovation. The trees were ready in 1987 and the farm opened to the public that year.
The couple tried many different species and settled on three major varieties — Fraser Fir, Korean Fir and Concolor Fir — for their soft needles, needle retention and customer appeal. Trees are priced according to height, fullness and symmetry, ranging from $69 to $139 with an average of about $89.
The farm is known for cultivating conifers in the Victorian manner.
“In most tree lots, the trees are sheared tighter and there isn’t enough room to allow the homeowner to put in ornaments and have them hang freely,” Genovese says. “Frank did a lot of shearing by hand, leaving them a little bit looser and perfectly symmetrical in order for the ornaments to hang and not lay on the tree. That was his particular style and it became very popular over the years.”
After 40 years developing the tree farm, and 43 years of marriage to Catherine, Frank Genovese passed away just before the farm opened for the 2018 season.
“That was quite a heartbreak,” Genovese says. “People came out to see him every year. It’s like a family. He loved everyone, greeted them with a hug and a smile. He truly represented the farm.”
Genovese’s son, Nicholas, flew in from California, and long-time staff and friends gathered to help Catherine through that difficult season. Her son, Michael, who operates nearby Summer Dreams Dahlia Farm, continues to assist. He’s expected to take over the farm, which requires continuous planting and work all year long, when Catherine retires.
Candy Cane Christmas Tree Farm was named after the candy that represents the hooks shepherds carried when they visited baby Jesus in Bethlehem. The business has focused on spreading the spirit of the season among local residents and people who visit Oakland County from around the world.
“Today we are delighted that many of our customers who hail from a variety of cultures and religions choose to share our rich tradition of putting up a Christmas tree and sharing the love, peace and joy it brings us,” the company’s website says.
In August, the farm was inducted to the Michigan Christmas Tree Association Hall of Fame.
Genovese says she is thrilled to see more and more people seeking the experience of cutting their own trees. She says Millennials in particular, who often have high-tech jobs, seem to crave a return to nature.
Many Oakland County communities pick up trees to mulch for local parks, and information on tree recycling is available at the farm. Conversely, artificial trees are not recyclable and take hundreds of years to biodegrade in landfills.
“We hope that people embrace the natural tree,” Genovese says.
There is magic in trekking through the woods, breathing the crisp air and working together to claim a tree to take home and decorate as the centerpiece of the holiday. That’s why generations of families have made Candy Cane Christmas Tree Farm a tradition to treasure.
“My husband Frank wanted to make this a very special place for people to come to and he always saw the tree as secondary to the family experience,” Genovese says. “It gives them the opportunity to do something wonderful and wholesome to celebrate the season of Christmas.”
Candy Cane Tree Farm is open for the season starting Nov. 23. Hours are noon-5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends and Friday, Nov. 29. After Dec. 10, call or check the website or Facebook for hours. Santa will greet guests Nov. 30-Dec.1 and Dec. 7-8.
Dogs are welcome on leash.
Candy Cane Christmas Tree Farm, 4780 Seymour Lake Road, Oxford, MI 48371, (248) 628-8899, candycanetreefarm.com.