Photo by Lorie Palmer
Barbra McFeron (along with her husband, Sam, who was at work during this photo) is ready to cut your Christmas tree for you – or you can do the honors yourself. The McFeron Christmas tree farm is located on Luke’s Gulch Road just outside of Stites.
As of Tuesday, December 9, 2014
STITES – It’s not about the money, money, money.
The sentiments aren’t just in a song; it’s true for Sam and Barbra McFeron. The couple planted Christmas trees on their property about 15 years ago and has been selling them to the community for years.
“You don’t make a lot of money – that’s not why we do it,” explained Barbra. “We do it for the community.”
Sam works for the highway district while Barbra drives a Kooskia-Stites area bus route for Mountain View School District 244. They moved just outside of Stites on Luke’s Gulch Road in 1989 and now own seven acres of property there.
“We started with a huge garden,” Barbra said. “I like knowing what I’m eating, where it comes from and what goes into it.”
The couple raised two daughters, now grown, married and with eight children between them.
“Growing and putting up food was also a way to save money,” Barbra explained, admitting she must have a bit of a green thumb.
A Kamiah school teacher friend of the couple had sold Christmas trees but was going to go out of business. He talked to the McFerons about continuing the tradition.
“We decided we’d give it a try,” Barbra shrugged.
The family now plants 500 trees each spring – “It’s what we do during school spring break,” Barbra laughed – and trees take about seven years to mature.
“We wanted families to continue to be able to have that experience of going out and getting a real Christmas tree,” she said. “We’ve been seeing some families for quite a few years now as their children grow and their lives change.”
The McFeron farm offers Canaan and Concolor firs as well as Blue Spruce. A certain variety was planted several times but the deer liked it too well.
“We tore those ones out,” Barbra shook her head.
How many trees they sell depend on the year and the weather among other variables, including the economy, Barbra said.
“Last year we sold about 70 trees,” she added.
Size doesn’t matter on this Christmas tree farm. All trees – 10 inches or 10 feet tall – are $25 apiece.
“We can cut them or we have a saw people can use or they can bring their own – it’s really up to them how much help they get,” Barbra said. “And we go on the honor system when we aren’t home.”
The McFerons not only hold down their full-time jobs aside from the tree farm, they also still raise a large garden, have many beehives, two walnut trees that keep them in nuts all year, and have goats, chickens for eggs and a dog.
“I guess we like to work, and we taught our girls to work hard,” smiled Barbra. She said the honey and trees are a small supplement to their income, but it’s more of a hobby and a service.
“We just like the idea of there being a place where a person can get a tree maybe as early as around Thanksgiving or as late as Christmas Eve and have fun getting it,” she said.
Barbra is quick to be thankful for her family’s blessings.
“None of this would have been possible without God,” she said. “I give Him all the glory.”
The McFerons attend Hope Fellowship Church in Kooskia. They enjoy hunting, fishing and camping when they have the time.
“We may work hard but we are blessed beyond measure,” grinned Barbra. “We love it here and love doing what we do.”
To get to the McFeron Christmas tree farm, go through Stites on U.S. Highway 12 and (coming from Grangeville) turn left at the bridge just past Stites Grocery. At the end of the bridge turn left onto Luke’s Gulch Road. Less than a quarter mile, turn right at the McFerons. An orange sign marks the road as well as a small sign at the mailbox that reads “bee crossing.”