Whispering Pines Tree Farm — which will send tree to VP Mike Pence's residence — sold
OCONTO – After 35 years of growing and selling Christmas trees, Dave and Mary Vander Velden have sold Whispering Pines Tree Farm.
The Oconto County operation — which made headlines this week with news they won the right to present a tree for use in the official residence of the Vice President, on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory — includes a large ornament and gift ship. It was purchased by Yeska Brothers Farm, Wild Rose.
The farm is operated by three brothers and their wives: Dan and Sharon, Ken and Carolann, and Randy and Megan Yeska.
“We are hoping to continue the traditions Dave, Mary and the Whispering Pines family started and customers have grown to rely on,” Megan Yeska said.
They are planning on a few new things for this year, including a food tent on the weekends after Thanksgiving, and a visit from a children’s author Missy Mittel in December.
This year, the gift shop will open Nov. 9, with the trees being sold the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Megan Yeska said their family got to know the Vander Velden’s after they purchased trees from Yeska brothers. The Yeskas are excited to work with Whispering Pines' staff.
“Over the summer we’ve come to know some of these folks, and we’re looking forward to being a part of what they created over the years,” she said. “The employees, from the beginning, never had feeling they were employees, and from our perspective, that felt right. At our farm, everybody is working to toward the same goal, and encouraging to see everyone fully invested in the success of Whispering Pines.”
The sisters-in-law will play an integral part in the day-to-day operations of the gift shop, the spring tree sale and nursery stock.
The three brothers are the second generation to operate the Wild Rose farm, started in the 50s by their father, Edwin.
They grow a variety of vegetables for canners — including cucumbers, potatoes, peas, jalapenos and green beans — on more than 2,000 acres.
Randy Yeska said he first started informally growing trees in the mid-1980s.
Around 2000, he and the brothers started planting trees on about 10 acres of non-irrigated fields. They landed their first wholesale contract in 2009.
Today, they have 450 acres devoted to trees, and last year sold about 15,000.
The Vander Veldens originally established Whispering Pines in 1984 with 16 acres in Door County. They moved to Oconto several years later and opened up the choose-and-cut operation in 1995. The business has become known for offering rides in the “Whispering Pines Express,” photos with Santa, the large gift show and hot chocolate.
“I’m 62 and I’d be 72 when I harvested trees I planted today, and then would still have to find someone to buy the business,” Dave Vander Veldensaid. “They expressed interest, and I thought it was time to retire. The tree business is a younger man’s game.”
Vander Velden will still be working at the farm this and next year as part of the transition.
“I’m sad to leave, but the Yeskas are the right family to take over the farm,” he said.
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Contact Kent Tempus at (920) 431-8226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.