Grant Award: $6,000
Burl has diversified his Christmas tree farm with berries and pumpkins to offer products and services year-round. He recently added 20 acres of land, which has 235 mature blueberry bushes on it, to his 45-acre farm with 18 acres of Christmas trees. He is also growing a half an acre of pumpkins and planting cane berries.
“As a customer comes in July to pick blueberries, I see them returning again with their family in October for pumpkins and again in December for a Christmas tree,” Burl said. “I would like to see families picnicking at our tables, fishing in our ponds, taking photos of their families in our fields, and eating food fresh off the vine, branch or plant. I would like to help build children’s memories of great experiences with their families at a farm.”
When Burl inherited his family’s land in 2007, he added a Choose and Cut venture to the wholesale business. To attract customers, he included hayrides, a Christmas shop, a food truck and farm animals, marketing the farm experience through several online sites. He has two miniature donkeys for visitors to pet, and is adding five head of cattle to keep pastoral views open and to harvest beef. In addition, he is graveling a parking lot and driveway to make room for an increase in customers.
Burl is also purchasing 2,000 Fraser Fir seedlings to expand his Christmas tree venture. Four Choose and Cut farmers recently retired, leaving 3,000 customers looking for a new place, Burl said.
Burl wants to share the value that farming instilled in him when he was young. “Spearing tobacco, cutting thistles, building fences, mowing between trees and baling trees was exhausting but also created a sense of accomplishment, built my character and taught me perseverance,” Burl said. “I learned to appreciate the beauty of seeing a tiny seed grow into a product that could be harvested and sold. I want my children and one day grandchildren to have the same experiences.”