Alice in Dairyland cuts down Wisconsin's first Christmas tree over livestream event

Grace Connatser
Wisconsin State Farmer
73rd Alice in Dairyland Julia Nunes cut down her first Christmas tree in 45 seconds at Evergreen Acres in East Troy.

79th Alice in Dairyland Julia Nunes jumpstarted the holiday season Wednesday, Nov. 18 with cutting down the state's first official Christmas tree.

The event is usually held live with an audience, but this year the event was presented on Facebook with most of the content pre-recorded due to COVID-19 concerns. Nunes presented various video clips taken of activities at Evergreen Acres in Walworth County, where the tree was cut down. Nunes made sure to wear a holiday-red sash and a black mink coat from the Kettle Moraine Mink Breeders Association.

It took Nunes only 45 seconds to saw through the base of her Christmas tree, which she will take home to her family and decorate with her sisters. She was also shown how to bale the tree for transportation.

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"It was so much fun to be out there at Evergreen Acres, cutting down the first Christmas tree, just spending the morning with them. So, so nice people," Nunes said during the livestream. "This is the first time, I believe, that I have cut down the tree. Usually my older sister Katrina is the one who cuts down the Christmas tree, so I was a little nervous because I felt like I had some expectations I had to live up to, but I feel like I did all right."

Evergreen Acres is owned by Bob and Ann Feucht, who moved to Wisconsin 45 years ago and bought a Christmas tree farm shortly thereafter. Since then, the Feuchts have planted between 2,000 and 3,000 trees every year for Christmas. Ann also makes bows by hand, and employee Rochelle Verick makes garlands by hand. The Feuchts, who have three children, also sell ornaments and other Christmas decorations.

Alice in Dairyland Julia Nunes at Evergreen acres with employee Rochelle Verick (left) and owners Ann and Bob Feucht (right).

"(The garlands) are beautiful, and it smells so good too. We have music playing in the background, the fire's going, it's so nice and toasty in here," Verick said of the farm and its shop. "Sometimes you'll see the snow is coming down. Look at the beautiful Christmas trees, it just puts you so much into the Christmas spirit."

"We also make square wreaths, we make candy canes, we've made horse heads," Ann said. "I think one year we tried a star. That's difficult."

Evergreen Acres currently sells balsam and Fraser firs as well as spruce trees. When they first bought the farm, the previous owner had planted Norway pine (also known as red pine) trees, but they decided to plant spruce, Scotch pine and white pine instead because it was popular during that time.

The Feuchts say it took them a long time to get the tree farm where they wanted it to be, and during the first year, disaster struck as a drought killed their crops.

"Little by little, we redid the farm," Bob said. "It took us many years to get the farm looking as nice as it is looking right now."

"The first year, we planted everything by hand, we put out strings to plant next to... and that year we had a drought, and we lost every single (tree)," Ann said with a laugh. "It's agriculture – it happens."

"It gave us more incentive to replant," Bob added. "We got the hang of it and started getting better at it."

It takes 7-10-years for these fir trees to grow to adult size.

The couple said this year's growing season went well, although it could have been better. Firs can handle some rainy weather, especially in the sandy soils of Walworth County where water drains easily. It takes 7-10 years to grow a fir tree. 

Two videos shared how Ann and Rochelle make the bows and garlands. Ann makes her bows entirely by hand using ribbon, saying she often just eyeballs measurements because "after 45 years you get the knack." Rochelle uses special bonding equipment to make her garlands out of fresh tree branches, which also introduce a good Christmas smell to the decor.

Evergreen Acres will begin selling trees and decorations beginning Friday, Nov. 27 and the farm will close for the holidays soon after Christmas. Ann said she already has 100 bows ready to sell, and for the garland and wreath lovers, they sell garland between five and 25 feet and wreaths between eight and 36 inches in diameter.

"All our repeat customers are wonderful people. It's such a happy time. It's not like tax season!" Ann said.

"I just love being in the field all the time ... staying out in nature and keeping busy," Bob said.