Family: Married for more than 30 years, we have three sons and a daughter.
Occupation: Owners of Glenview Tree Farm since 1980 and Del's Popcorn Express in Mount Zion since 2002. Trudy also is a teaching assistant in the Decatur School District.
Education: Mike is a 1971 graduate of Mount Zion High School and earned a bachelor's degree in agriculture from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Trudy has a bachelor's degree from Easter Illinois University.
My "I'd rather be ..." bumper sticker would read:
Mike: "I'd rather be flying." It's a nice escape from the daily grind to go up on a pretty day and view the landscape from 2,000 or 3,000 feet.
Trudy: "I'd rather be on a beach." Tropical weather and scenery allow me to relax.
Mike: I enjoy anything mechanical. I like to look at machines and figure out how they work. I like airplanes, nice pickup trucks and cars.
Trudy: Hiking, working out and scrapbooking.
My first job:
Mike: Helping with chores on my dad and uncle's grain and dairy farm. Feeding, bedding, cleaning stalls and always first in line if it involved getting to drive a tractor.
Trudy: Park leader for the Decatur recreation department.
Why I do what I do:
Mike: The past 10 years, we have been trying to keep up with four kids in college. That type of financial commitment keeps you working hard to stay afloat.
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Personal approaches to challenges:
Mike: You have to study and understand the challenge, then break it down into steps and take one step at a time or you can become overwhelmed. Don't be afraid to ask someone for advice if they have more experience and success at the current challenge.
Trudy: I try to remain positive whether its business or personal.
Mike: In my younger years, I was very involved on committees and boards in the ag community. I spent several years on the Macon County Soil and Water Conservation board, Illinois Christmas Tree Growers, Macon County Farm Bureau and Elwin Methodist Church. I have been too busy the past few years to be very involved in the community.
Trudy: Mount Zion Chamber of Commerce and the Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants.
What prompted you to go into business for yourself? I just wanted to farm and you make decisions along the way to make an operation work and that leads to diversity. The tree farm stemmed from trying to make a better use of rolling pasture ground.
What is the biggest challenge to owning your own businesses? You have to be jack of all trades and be able to do every job. You usually don't have the luxury of specializing in only one aspect. You have to bounce around and juggle them all.
What piece of advice would you offer someone who is considering starting their own business? Observe others who are doing something similar to what you want to do and then do it better, faster and more efficient. Be patient and be flexible so you can roll with the punches.
How did the Christmas tree farm come about? How has it changed over the years? My grandparents had about 40 acres of pasture ground that was a little too rolling to till and farm. I didn't want the seven-day-a-week job that livestock takes. While brain storming uses of the property, planting Christmas trees kept coming up. I talked to Frank Evans at 4 E's trees one spring day and was planting new seedlings the next day with his planter and seedlings provided by Frank. We expanded the farm to about 80 acres of trees at one time and are now in the process of shrinking the farm. It's down to about 40 acres today and will continue shrinking about 10 acres per year until the remaining trees are used up.
How much work goes into creating the perfect Christmas tree? A lot of hands-on care is needed. Staking and tying seedlings after planting so they get off to a straight start. A lot of mowing, spraying and monitoring during the summer months. Trimming annually in June. Marketing all year. Harvest is like baling hay in cold weather with a lot of layers of clothing on.
What should a person be looking for when selecting a real Christmas tree? View the tree from a few feet away to notice the general shape, size and color. Then take a closer look inside the tree to see if it's straight. Every tree has a best side so try to discover which it is. Know you ceiling height so you don't get a tree that is to large. They look smaller outside then they will in your house.
What should a person do to keep it looking beautiful all season long? A fresh cut is important immediately before placing in the tree stand. You've got to maintain the water level because the tree won't take up water after bowl goes dry unless you lay the tree down and make another fresh cut. Try to situate the tree so the furnace isn't blowing directly on the tree.