In 1984, vegetable farmer Doug Dose decided to change the focus of his business to Christmas trees.
For three years prior, he and his wife, Sandra, grew and sold pumpkins, squash, sweet corn, cantaloupe and green beans on their 11-acre property in north Rochester. Then, they decided to take the advice of a friend who suggested a tree farm. They planted that year, and by 1991, they were able to harvest the first mature trees.
Today, they have 13,000 trees in their business Choose & Cut Fraser Firs .
How did it go in the beginning?
The first year, we planted 1,000 fraser firs and 1,000 concolor firs and 1,000 Douglas fir. And in the summer of 1985, I didn't plant anymore trees because they all looked so terrible. Well, toward the fall of 1985, the frasers started looking like they were going to make it, so in 1986, I tore up the concolors and the Douglas fir and planted everything back to fraser firs.
Before buying the property in 1981, did you have farming experience?
Yes. I grew up on a truck (vegetable) farm in Rochester, and we spent our summers hoeing corn, weeding and that type of stuff. We delivered to all of the grocery stores in the family station wagon. There was six of us kids. We picked vegetables after school, and we had a little food stand up there by Wally's Garden up on the U.S. 52 frontage road.
What do you like about being a tree farmer?
Well, it's good to get outside and do a lot of physical exercise. There is a lot of fulfillment in taking something from a small tree — if it's green, I can take it and make it into a tree.
Is your whole family involved in the business?
We have four children, ages 25 to 17, and they all have grown up, from 5 years old, working out in the trees. Some are in college, but they come home to help during the holiday season.
How many people typically come out here during the Christmas tree season?
Well, if you count a husband, wife and a couple of kids, there's going to be 4,000 to 5,000 people that will come out to the farm. That doesn't equate to 4,000 or 5,000 tree sales, but that's how many people will visit the farm.
I see you have a bushel basket of peanuts in here. Do you always?
Yeah, well, at first, we started out with hot cocoa, and everybody was dumping hot cocoa on their sweatshirts and burning their tongues and stuff like that. So we figured no more of that. So we started with the peanuts about 12 years ago. And now, some people say they come out for the peanuts and, while they're here, they figure they'll get a tree. We go through about 100 pounds of peanuts every season.