Oh, Christmas tree

Published 9:29 am Thursday, December 15, 2011

Paul Budd stands next to a row of trees he planted at Budd’s Christmas Tree Farm. Budd planted the farm in 1977 and has been selling the trees since 1983. -- Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune

CLARKS GROVE — Each year, Paul Budd plants between 1,200 and 1,500 fir, spruce and pine seedlings with little to no help.

Paul Budd talks with Judy Hargrave about where she can find the tree she is looking for. Each of the trees has a tag on it so people can tell it apart.

Because of animals, disease and mother nature, Budd expects that only about 900 of them will make a good fit for the families who have made it a tradition to search out and chop down their own Christmas tree.

At Budd’s Christmas Tree Farm, Budd has enjoyed watching families grow older as they visit each year but finds himself quite lonely during the other months when he is working alone at least six days a week.

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Fortunately, for several years Budd had company he could count on. His wife’s parents, who live on the farm, had taken in a dog that was supposed to be put to sleep.

“He loved being here at Christmas time with all the people,” said Budd.

His name was Major and the first year he spent at the farm, his legs were full of bandages. Budd said that didn’t stop him from getting in on the fun. He would lie in the office and soak up attention from the visitors.

“He liked to come out to the trees. He was in the way and he would dig holes and do a lot of things I didn’t like,” Budd said with a laugh. “But, he was a great pet and we had a lot of fun.”

Major lived to be 16 but has died leaving Budd alone on the farm once again.

At age 65, the farm is taking a toll on Budd. Besides being lonely, his health hasn’t been very good, especially with all the physical work required to maintain 18 acres of trees.

“It’s kind of a love/hate thing,” said Budd.

He enjoys what he does but he has had back problems that seem to get in the way.

The rows of trees at Budd’s Tree Farm seem never-ending. The farm is placed on 40 acres of land.

“When you get older, you do things and you don’t feel it right away,” Budd said. “Then all of a sudden it’s there and then it’s a nagging achy thing.”

Budd hopes he can find someone to take over what he started because it is an adventure for families and the school children that visit on field trips.

When the tree farm first got started in 1977, Budd traveled from Fargo, N.D., to Clarks Grove during his summer breaks from teaching, to plant trees with his dad.

After five years of making the haul back and forth, Budd left his job at Oak Grove Lutheran High School to make a life of Christmas tree farming.

Budd became the sole person to run the farm as his dad started up others in Iowa, and 34 years later he still feels his work is worth it because of each and every person who visits.

“I feel very blessed to have this many years selling trees,” Budd said. “Because it could have ended very quickly.”