Company's current crop of trees unharmed by drought
The Utzig family has been growing Christmas trees at Janesville's Tannenbaum Acres for more than 50 years.
JANESVILLE It's one of those special holiday moments:
You're on the floor wrestling with the Christmas tree stand. Each time you get two of the legs in place, the third leg slips out of the stand. You can only use one hand, because with the other you are balancing a Christmas tree on your back.
You wonder what in the world you were thinking when you decided to get a real tree this year.
When you get to that moment this year, think to yourself, "At least it's only one tree. Mark Utzig got to unload a truckload of trees in his driveway."
Utzig is the owner of Tannenbaum Acres, 4839 W. Highway 11, Janesville. The Utzig family has been growing Christmas trees west of Janesville for more than 50 years. His business is to sell customers holiday memories, and he of course doesn't mean the momentary inconvenience of putting up the tree.
Customers like to walk the 10-acre farm to select the perfect tree. They can cut their own or ask an employee to cut it. The experience can include wagon rides, hot cider and a visit to the petting zoo, Utzig said.
"It's an experience," he said.
This isn't the first year Utzig has brought in extra trees for the season, though he did get more this year than he has before, he said. He just can't grow trees fast enough for his customers, who come from near and far to buy from him, he said.
Last year, Tannenbaum Acres sold out of trees days before Christmas, Utzig said.
Utzig and his employees hand pick the trees that will be cut and delivered to his business.
This year, he went farther north in Wisconsin than usual to choose trees not stressed by drought conditions, he said.
Customers shouldn't worry that the drought affected this year's crop. Trees large enough for harvesting have root systems that can reach moisture deep underground, he said.
The trees affected by the drought were the seedlings planted this spring. Utzig expects all 800 seedlings planted this year died during summer.
It was the combination of heat and lack of rain that did in the little trees, Utzig said.
"They can handle one or the other, but not both," he said.
Tannenbaum Acres' season starts Thanksgiving morning, when some families will be waiting at sunrise for the tree farm to open.
"They put their turkey in and come line up for their tree," Utzig said. "They want the pick of the crop."
Trees can be safely stored for several weeks until families are ready to decorate them, Utzig said. Utzig recommends keeping a tree in a cool, dark place such as a garage. Keep them away from hot-air registers or radiators, he said, and keep the tree in plenty of fresh water.
Trees this year are likely to be thirsty when you get them home, he said.
"They'll suck up a water bowl in an hour," Utzig said. "That's good. Just let them keep doing that. After a time, it will stop, and it won't bring up as much."
Members of the Christmas tree-growing industry, including Utzig, say buying locally grown trees has economic and ecological benefits.
An acre of Christmas tree produces enough oxygen for the daily requirements of 18 people, according to Wisconsin Agriculture in the Classroom 2011 publications. The industry has an annual $50 million economic impact, according to the literature.
"It's a 100 percent biodegradable, renewable resource," Utzig said. "Made right here in Rock County."