For the first time in more than 5 decades, Stones Apple Barn in rural East Moline, Illinois won’t be selling Christmas trees.
Owner Vince Bull says the time and money it took to bring a live tree to market was simply too much, and the trend towards buying an artificial tree was more than his business could bear.
“It’s always up and down with artificial trees, but they’ve gotten them to a point of perfection, and they can use them over and over again and they look beautiful, look like a real tree, and that’s a big part of the problem,” says Bull.
So this spring, Vince cut down more than 100 acres of Christmas trees, and plowed up the field, and planted corn and beans.
“It kept going down, down, down to the point when it was more profitable to take them all out and put them into corn and soybeans,” says Bull.
This fall, with corn prices at $7 a bushel, and beans over $12, Bull says his profits were significantly higher. With trees out of the picture, plans are to focus more on the fruit and orchard side of things. Adding more trees, and events like their first ever apple-fest held earlier this fall.
“One day of that made more money right now than the profit of the Christmas trees,” says Bull.
It’s not easy looking out and seeing an empty bean field where thousands of Christmas trees grew for decades says Bull.
It will be especially bittersweet when lifelong customers show up after Thanksgiving looking for their family tree.
“It’s going to be extremely tough to tell them we’re out of Christmas trees this year,” says Bull.
While it’s the end of the road for the tree farm, apples at Stones Apple Barn were some of their best crop ever, and they say the fruit will be back next fall.