Rural Christmas tree farm last one in county

Riley Middendorf and dog Summer pose with the tree her family picked out on Sunday. The Middendorfs braved sleet and freezing temperatures to come out to the farm and get their tree. (Robyn Dexter photos)

Tucked back off Route 156 near Valmeyer sits Ivy Lane Tree Farm, a family-owned operation where visitors can choose from a variety of Christmas trees spread out over many acres.

The farm is owned by Herb Stemler, who was raised on the farm and has continued to look after it as the years have gone on.

The farm in its entirety is around 100 acres, but the acres around the house Stemler rents out are dedicated to growing Christmas trees.

“I planted my first trees out here when my father retired in 1976,” Stemler said.

Since the early 1980s, he has kept a variety spruce and pine trees on the lot for customers to come purchase and take home.

In the initial years, he would cut the trees and take them to other places to be sold.

“That turned out to be not a good experience, so I decided to go and do this with the farm out here,” Stemler said.

Though many places in the area sell real Christmas trees, Stemler said he believes he has the only farm where families can come out and pick out their own tree to cut down.

“Once I started, I had trees every year,” he said. “But I haven’t planted much in the past five years due to old age and health, though,” he said.

Stemler said business has declined in recent years, but he has had customers come from all around to check out the farm.

“I’ve had people come from the Valmeyer area, Columbia, Waterloo and even from St. Louis,” he said. “It’s widespread, and we’ve had a lot of repeat customers.”

Ivy Lane Tree Farm sits off Route 156 near Valmeyer.

Each summer, Stemler works to shape his trees and have them inspected by the state.

Ivy Land Tree Farm has three varieties of spruce trees, white pine and Scotch pine trees.

“I’ve had lots of spruce trees because people come and want the old-fashioned Christmas trees,” he said.

Unfortunately, Stemler said he lost about half of his spruce trees to the drought in summer 2012.

“Those are limited, but they’re a beautiful tree,” he said. “But I love seeing the kids come out with their families and darting around looking for the perfect one.”

Stemler’s grandson has been helping with cutting and loading the trees since Stemler has not been able to make it out to the tree farm as much.

“He’s been extremely helpful,” he said.

Though many Americans prefer setting up an artificial tree in their home, Stemler believes Christmas tree farms still have a place in today’s world.

“Part of the fun of Christmas is getting the real tree,” he said. “There’s a joy in finding just the right one.”

The farm is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.

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