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Illinois Christmas tree farm expects busy season after record year

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Daniken Tree Farm in Bond County

A crew of young employees plants evergreen seedlings at Daniken Tree Farm in Bond County. David and Joey Daniken grow six species of pine, spruce and fir, totaling 45,000 trees, on 70 acres. 

Bond County Farm Bureau member David Daniken anticipates a busy holiday season as Daniken Tree Farm opens before Thanksgiving, but topping last year’s record will be tough. In 2020, Daniken and his wife, Joey, sold the most trees in the family farm’s 53-year history.

In October, Daniken, a Marine veteran, started getting questions about whether trees will be available.

“There are only so many trees, but we’ve got plenty. I’m not going to run out,” he said he assured customers.

The Daniken Tree Farm began with 500 trees planted by Maurice and Betty Daniken before their son and daughter-in-law bought the business in 2002.

Now 45,000 trees — six species of pine, spruce and fir — grow on 70 acres. The specialty farm employs 30 to 40 part-time seasonal workers and includes a 3-acre pumpkin patch and 3-acre corn maze that just closed for the season. Visit danikentreefarm.com or follow the farm on Facebook.

Along with a choose-and-cut tree farm, the Danikens operate a tree nursery, selling about 1,000 trees in spring and fall. For the holidays, the farm sells pre-cut trees wholesale to tree lots across Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri.

On the farm near Pocahontas, customers may take a hayrack ride to saw down their perfect tree or choose among nine species of pre-cut trees. The Danikens also sell fresh wreaths, roping, grave blankets and other cemetery decorations. An on-farm gift shop offers a wide variety of gift items.

Daniken Tree Farm opened for the season on the Saturday, Nov. 20, with daily business hours 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The farm is closed on Thanksgiving Day and closes for the season Dec. 23.

Santa Claus will greet little visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 26 and on the first three Saturdays and Sundays after Thanksgiving.

In addition to brightening customers’ holidays, Daniken Tree Farm provides cheer to military families and needy children.

Daniken supports his fellow Marines by serving as a collection point for the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program. Customers may bring new toys to the farm or donate money toward toy purchases.

Plus, the Danikens support Trees for the Troops, which gives farm-grown Christmas trees to members of all military branches and their families. Last year, the Danikens supplied 245 trees that were delivered to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (and Illinois Emergency Management Agency Community Partners Vaccination Program is teaming up with Forest Park School District 91 to help vaccinate children ages 5-11 years.

This year, a $30 donation will provide a tree for a military family; however, donations of any size will be accepted.

On a Christmas tree farm, the rush comes early.

Daniken sold most of his wholesale, pre-cut trees around Labor Day. The early demand includes individual customers. According to Daniken, 70% of trees are sold within a five-day period, the three days after Thanksgiving and the following weekend.

But the customers who travel to Daniken Tree Farm want more than an evergreen to decorate.

“A tree farmer focuses on quality and the experience,” Daniken said. “You come out to us, it might be for a couple of hours for a hayride to the field with your family or it might be for five to six hours.

“We have people who walk the whole place. It’s the experience that sets this type of agricultural apart.”

This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit FarmWeekNow.com.

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