The grass is frost-scuffed, and the afternoon light gives the bare trees a glow. We park in the field by the barn and walk up the hill carrying a bow saw. The air smells of balsam. The baby trees on the fringes come up to our knees, but we are in among the larger ones, circling them to look from all angles. If you have ever chosen a tree with family and friends, you know this conversation — is it tall enough? You can just reach the top. It’s a little uneven, but we can shape it.
Somehow the time it takes to choose a tree seems to vary in inverse proportion to the age of the youngest speakers — and in direct proportion to the temperature. Not long ago my parents, two old friends and I chose a concolor fir in about 10 minutes. Concolor has a citrus tang and thick, softish needles. This one needed trimming to fit into a small room in my parents’ house, which was built in the 1700s for people my size.
We have often chosen and cut our own trees over the years. Coming to a local farm and walking through the fields has become part of the holiday. When my brother and sister and I were younger, we would wrangle cheerfully over what kind of tree — white pine have long, soft needles, and balsam are fragrant. Frazer fir grow tall and even.
I’ve always loved it. Holding the tree steady as my dad saws through the base, reaching through the branches with fir needles in my hair and helping to carry our tree back up the hill with sap-sticky gloves.
Now we’re older and scattered, and who chooses the tree and when has adapted to time and become that much rarer. It still happens every year, though, and it still has magic in it. Once, back in Connecticut, I went with friends and their young daughter to choose their tree, and we saw bluebirds flying across the lower fields.
Here are the local tree farms and plant nurseries we have gathered and updated in 2019. If you know of more, we welcome your thoughts. And some tree farms stay open only as long as the trees last, so as the season goes on, we encourage you to call ahead to check on trees, open hours and weather before you head out.
Christmas trees and tree farms in (and near) the Berkshires
Crane Hill Tree Farm
The Spencer family carries cut-your-own or already cut Balsam Fir trees up to eight or ten feet tall in the fields around their holiday shop. You can sip free hot chocolate to warm up They will stay open while they have trees, in the first two weekends of December and possiby into the third, and they are becoming better known, they say, so they recommend coming early or calling ahead.
233 Johnson Hill Road, off Route 8, Washington
Frederick Christmas Tree Farm
Mike Frederick carries Balsam Fir, Fraser Fir, White Pine and White Spruce — we suggest calling ahead to make sure he’s open.
360 Washington Road, Route 8, Hinsdale
(413) 655-8551, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ioka Valley Farm
Ioka Valley Farm welcomes holiday guests to their winter tree farm on weekends from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., for people to cut their own tree in the field or find a fresh-cut tree at the farm stand, with wreaths, handcrafted decorations, gifts and pure maple syrup. You can also take time to warm yourself by our woodstove with fresh popcorn (The gift shop and farm stand are also open with freshly cut Christmas Trees on Fridays, noon to 4:30 p.m.) They have Concolor Fir, Fraser Fir and Canaan Fir trees.
On December 4 and 5, the Calf-A is open 8 a.m. to noon for a festive meal with the farm’s own maple syrup.
(They will not have hayrides this year, because of covid guidelines, but they will have a tractor and wagon to carryt trees from the field to the farm stand.)
3475 Route 43, Hancock
Mount Anthony Tree Farms
At one of the largest tree farms in Southern Vermont, Jim and Julie Horst grow Fraser and Balsam fir, pre-cut and cut-your-own. The Horst family have actively farmed at Mount Anthony Farms in Bennington since 1897 and have recently expanded into Pownal.The farm has evolved from animals and annual crops to Christmas trees, and now has more than 60,000 trees.
They are open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday to Sunday, beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving.
3583 VT-346, North Pownal, Vt.
Pleasant Valley Tree Farm
At Pleasant Valley, you can cut your own Balsam and Fraser firs, or find trees already cut — this year they will not have trees in pots, but they’ll always have broad views of Mount Anthony, the Green Mountains and the Taconic Mountains. Bring your own saw, or borrow one of theirs. The holiday gift barn offers wreathes and kissing balls, garlands and Vermont maple syrup.
313 Pleasant Valley Road, Bennington Vt.
Seekonk Tree Farm
You can cut your own Balsam fir, concolor fir, Fraser fir, white or Meyer spruce and white pine (at lot 3, from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.) and find already cut Fraser fir
at their Christmas shop (lot 1, 9:30 to 4:30 p.m. daily) with handmade wreaths, kissing balls, roping and more. All three lots are open Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4::30 p.m.)
32 Seekonk Cross Road, Great Barrington
Windy Hill Farm
Windy Hill is known for their winterberry — rows of bushes glow red with berries in early winter, and the farm shop is bright in red, yellow and orange. They offer bundles of berried branches, wreathes and centerpieces, and young bushes to plant.
Their annual holiday shop, open November and December, carries fresh-cut Christmas trees
wreathes and evergreens, kissing balls, boxwood trees, candle wreaths and decorations.
686 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington
Open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Dec. 24
This column is updated in December 2021. It first ran in Berkshires Week in my time as editor of the magazine. My thanks to the Berkshire Eagle and VP of News Kevin Moran.