Rainier’s Sprouffske Trees Inc. has provided Christmas trees to the Nisqually Valley area and beyond for generations.
Their trees have filled more than half a million homes, family member Shelley Mauss Sprouffske said.
“Our biggest challenge now, which is similar to many other farms, is that we plan our fields seven to eight years in advance,” Sprouffske said. “We plan for our growth, but as other farms have closed, it’s difficult to keep up with the additional demand. Nationwide, there is a shortage of real Christmas trees.”
After previously leasing 20 acres to Hoffert Tree Co., Fred Sprouffske became intrigued by the idea of a Christmas tree farm and planted the first Douglas fir seedlings on his farm. After speaking with his four children about taking a stake in the company, Sprouffske Tree Inc. was born with the first trees being sold in 1972.
The farm offers three types of trees: Douglas fir, grand fir and noble fir.
“Nobles are the most popular throughout the Northwest,” Shelley Mauss Sprouffske said. “Several years ago, we started growing port orford cedar wholesale and that’s been a beautiful addition to the fields.”
Sprouffske Trees Inc. is open just three weekends out of the year since it’s smart for growers to shorten their seasons and preserve fields for future harvests. By the time the final weekend for the farm rolls around, which this year took place on Dec. 10 and Dec. 11, only Douglas firs and handcrafted wreaths and garland were available.
The farm uses long tree knives that look like machetes to hand trim the trees into a triangle shape. They shape the trees twice a year to give their grows the popular symmetrical look.
“The trees tend to be lower maintenance with the exception of planting seedlings (and) mowing each row, which can be time consuming when you figure each section of 3,500 to 4,000 trees has 18ish rows and we have seven-plus sections in growth right now,” Shelley Mauss Sprouffske said. “Seedlings going into the ground is done by hand.”
Shelley Mauss Sprouffske sits on the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Christmas Tree Advisory Board. She said 27% of growers in Washington did not renew their license this year.
“Keeping up with ever growing demand is a challenge,” she said. “The shortage of growers has really created a supply problem for growers still in business. As with everything in society right now, costs have risen in supplies across the board, which impacts overall costs and pricing. We do our best to offer competitive pricing.”
The staff is small. It includes seven owners who also are employees. One of the original farm founders, Sandi Sprouffske, passed away earlier this year, but the family continued the tradition.
“We work hard to provide beautiful trees and greenery while delivering a simple, wholesome experience finding and cutting a tree with your family,” Shelley Mauss Sprouffske said. “We like to say that ‘Christmas begins at our farm’ for our customers. It’s a beautiful tradition for many families who have been coming for decades.”
The fourth generation of the family has boys ranging from a fourth grader to a freshman in college. All of them are active on the farm.
“You will find them baling trees, ringing up customers, decorating wreaths, and welcoming families at our info booth around the fire outside,” Shelley Mauss Sprouffske said.
Generations of area families have made a trip to the Rainier-based tree farm a priority during the holiday season. Shelley Mauss Sprouffske has seen family’s bring their kids, then those kids begin to have their own kids.
“It’s not uncommon to find three, four, or five generations of families visiting, with grandparents gladly handing on the honor of cutting the tree down to younger family members,” Shelley Mauss Sprouffske said.
Throughout the years, the community support for the tree farm has been immense.
“We all live on the farm, so it’s really like extending our backyard to the community to join this little piece of heaven that we love and care for,” Shelley Mauss Sprouffske said. “We are grateful for the opportunity to be part of so many families’ traditions and memories.”
For more information, go online to sprouffsketrees.com.
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