Eye of the Storm

pic-of-the-manicured-farmerkim-tree-magazine-1Kim’s Column Christmas Trees Magazine~World’s Leading Magazine for Christmas Tree Growers
Volume 42, No.4

Nov. 2016- Our most recent selling season preparation:
I’m loitering, lurking . . . anticipating. I casually meander over to the rim of the canyon and peer down. I only catch a glimpse of the swirling vortex before I look away and ignore, for a bit longer . . . knowing I too will be plunging in soon, the sands of time forcing my hand.

What we have worked for all year, our selling season is only weeks away. Of course not everyone holds the same perspective as the matriarch of the clan. My duties as wife to the farmer, mother of the kids, nana to the ” grands”, marketing guru, business owner and keeper of the flame dictate a loud call to action! Each year I store the experiences in my vault of do’s and don’ts, but I am not sure you can fully prepare for it all.

Our selling season has evolved in the 15 years we have been in business. In 2002 the number of choose and harvest tree farms in the Kansas City metro area was many, and attracting people to our farm was the name of the game. It was all about advertisement, getting the word out. How could we gain enough customers to sell what we needed to keep our farm going to the next year? We needed enough profits to pay for our opening costs, and our operating expenses. With a season that is over almost before it starts, each day is crucial, and poor weather on a busy sales day cuts deeply when you are battling for growth and profits…sustainability.

Today, because many Christmas Tree Farms have retired from the business in our area, the demand for choose and harvest trees is at an all-time high. Experiencing a few hours in the crisp and fragrant fields of a Christmas tree farm, to harvest that special tree has reached into the hearts of long-time plastic tree owners. This trend has changed what we do dramatically, God knew it needed to be baby steps for us to handle the way things are today. Last year we had approximately 6000 people roaming around Ft. Osage Christmas. Who shops for a tree alone? Our focus has changed from finding customers to providing the best experience and quality trees to meet the demand of a multiplying customer base.
Typically I assemble my weapons of choice; pencil and sharpie, datebook and “playbook” binder and a positive attitude. I usually divide my tasks into before opening day and after. When we open, it’s like a grand opening EVERY year. Some of my tasks will include:

~Clean, organize, set up and decorate gift shop.
~Decipher needed gift store merchandise and supplies, place orders.
~Make 250 Units of my original spiced tea “Christmas Cheer.”
~Cocoa station set up and stocked with 1000’s of cups and canisters of cocoa and cases of mini candy canes.
~Arrange for portable bathroom facilities (fingers crossed our new restroom facilities will be complete this year!)
~Arrange helpers for marking all field trees.

~Contact and schedule help for unloading of our semi-full of Fraser Fir arriving three days before opening (brought in by request of our patrons, this tree not typically grown in Missouri)
~Organizing and creating work schedules for friends and family who become retail selling staff.
~Choosing days when a minimum of 50 wreaths can be created and ready for opening day.
~Lining up all workers for actual tree processing.
~Choose our Santa, schedule his appearances, dry clean the suit, create Santa’s stage with honorable chair, decorated trees, special “larger” candy canes, coloring books.

~Update website.
~Prepare six weeks of social media posts.
~Write, create and record detailed messages for callers, change weekly with updates.
~Update PickYourOwn.org with 2016 season information.
~Inventory existing signage, reorder as needed.
~Place signs and banners, arrows to farm.

~Decorate our home for Christmas
~Choose set up and decorate our tree.
~Plan Thanksgiving meal, pre-prepare or arrange catering.
~Have plenty of easy meal choices stocked.
~Online Christmas shopping dates circled

The list does not include everything that my husband does, his list is scary. Even more frightening, he has never once utilized the little notebooks I have supplied him with for list making. He keeps mental lists . . . it’s a head scratcher.
I have learned a few things in this process. Decorate my house for Christmas early Nov. Stock the freezer and fridge. Try to have all Christmas shopping done before the first leaves fall, wrap as they arrive. Hire housekeeping help. Take Monday’s off. It all sounds good in theory, and some years I hit it out of the ball park and other times I just pray everyone has clean socks. A couple of times in the last 15 years while running an errand in the middle a furiously busy sales day, I pondered escape . . . the airport is not far.
I guess my loitering is over, its crunch time. Within the deep canyon, a cyclone rotates and I catch glimpses of objects caught in the fury. Autumn leaves swirl amid flying calendars, wreaths, fireplaces, roast turkeys on platters, shopping bags, Santa’s suit, tree stands and clocks, packages and bows and an occasional dog that barks. Time waits for no one, I say a prayer, take a deep breath and plunge into that whirlwind of consumption.
When my planning is done, and my strategy is laid out like mission possible, I seem to find my rhythm. I am no longer looking into the vortex, I am part of it. Like being in the eye of the storm, I find some peace when I begin to focus on the experience we provide to our patrons. A warm and cozy fire to sit by in a festive and magical gift shop. Hot cocoa or spiced tea served with a smile, holiday music covering our 20 acres, a friendly handshake from the farmer, breathtaking trees and wreaths to grace their homes. The rolling hills of Fort Osage Christmas will be ready, along with our gratitude for each family who chooses to create memories with us. Who needs sleep anyway?

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