MARCUS, Iowa | Marie and Neal Bork have many trees on the Country Pines Tree Farm in rural Marcus that Siouxlanders can cut and buy to decorate for Christmas.

But the experience the Borks offer to the extended families scouring tree options is a broader, festive one, with cider drinks, candy canes, Santa items for sale and music in a barn. Marie Bork said people greet her with hugs and some will catch up for the gap over the 12 months since they last came to Country Pines.

"We say that we sell memories, that is the key to everything.... Everybody who comes is happy. Nobody is grumpy. Well, if they are grumpy, we make them not grumpy," Bork said.

Bork said the trend of people buying Christmas trees from Country Pines Tree Farm on the first weekend after Thanksgiving has been strong for many years.

"People get through Thanksgiving, and now it is time for Christmas," Bork said of the buying mentality.

"We have families, maybe two or three generations, coming to the tree farm. Some people wander around for an hour, just enjoying being outside and being together."

Holiday decorators can cut the fragrant tree of their choice at the farm. Most trees grow from seven to 15 years before being harvested. Pine grows faster than spruce or fir, and the slower-growing trees command a higher price.

Continuing her 20-year tradition of shopping at Country Pines, Jean Walker, of Cherokee, Iowa, went with 15 family members and four friends to buy trees Friday. Walker said she has always preferred real to artificial trees, for the scent of the pine, plus it delivers a sense of nostalgia.

Walker said it is pleasing to have her grandchildren now coming to pick trees, adding onto the memories of when her own children drove to the farm while hearing Christmas music in the car.

"We come, we cut down our tree and we enjoy it...It is an old-time Christmas (feel)," Walker said.

There aren't a huge number of tree farms in Iowa. The other main one in Northwest Iowa is 40 miles west of the Borks', in rural Hawarden, Iowa, T&S Christmas Tree Farm.

The Iowa Christmas Tree Growers Association dates to 1963, and about 100 association members are selling trees on plots that typically range from three to eight acres.

The Borks have owned the tree farm since 1990. They planted the first seedlings that year, and enough had reached maturity to begin selling by 1996. This year, the selling season opened Wednesday, then the Borks enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday.

Marie Bork said her expectations for a busy three-day weekend were quickly realized, describing Friday morning being full with 15 to 25 vehicles for much of the time.

"It was absolutely wild and crazy," Bork said.

There are 4,000 trees at the Country Pines farm in various stages of growth, from seedlings to the seven-footers people want. Bork said there was concern with July drought conditions, but "we've had nice rains this fall," so the crop is fine for sales.

"There were quite a few good options. I always go for the biggest and the tallest, that just me," Walker said, punctuating her assessment with a laugh.

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County and education reporter

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