Couple leaves the hustle and bustle of California for their own Christmas tree farm in Oklahoma
Native Californians Brian and Rachelle Batesole found California to be too expensive with a too fast lifestyle.
In an effort to slow things down, the young couple moved to Oklahoma and developed a Christmas tree farm.
Brian works in the Oklahoma Department of Human Services as a case manager in the developmental disability services while Rachelle teaches algebra 2, the math of finance and botany at Vian High School.
The couple chose Oklahoma because friends who had retired there told him they absolutely had to see it. Brian and Rachelle fell in love with the area but could not find exactly what they were looking for. Brian finally saw a small property outside of Gore that had been on the market for nine months without a viewing. The couple went in and came out with a home. They have 8 acres, 3 of which are used for Christmas trees and an additional acre for a newer venture of pick-your-own blueberries.
“Every year, we see more and more customers returning to real trees as in their youth,” Rachelle explained. “Also, a growing number of families want more tradition and togetherness during the holidays that an artificial tree simply can’t provide.:”
Cal2Homa Farm (California to Oklahoma) caters to those seeking the joy of picking out a tree from a luscious grove and cutting it down themselves. The farm has 1,200 to 1,400 people annually, with many making the process a family event that often includes extended family. Parents appreciate sketchy cell service so everyone is more involved.”
Brian and Rachelle begin selling trees the day after Thanksgiving knowing that the Cross family from Muskogee will be at the door at 9 a.m. on the dot with five dozen peanut butter cookies kissed by a Hershey’s as a gift. Another family, the Skuliches, will not be far behind with sometimes as many as 20 family members, all dressed in full Pittsburgh Steelers regalia, except for one son-in-law who flaunts his Cleveland Brown loyalty.
The couple fondly remembers one grade-school youngster running up to them all excited because his family had just found a tree and needed one of their bow saws. When asked which tree, the boy happily explained it was a green one.
“I often tell people, ‘We will not refuse to deny you the experience to put your derriere in the air to cut your own tree,’” quipped Rachelle while Brian suppressed a smile.
A typical Christmas tree outing lasts about an hour and a half, with people patiently and happily waiting for the trees to be shook and baled as they partake other site activities. These activities include complementary hot chocolate, poor man’s ping-pong played on a piece of plywood, crazy corn hole and a chalk wall. A favorite for people of all ages is a petting zoo with a mini horse, donkeys and goats, including one charming goat named, Daisy Mae, referred to as the “unigoat” because it has only one horn.
The farm offers Virginia Pines, Leyland Cypress and Murray Cypress trees with White Pine as a recent addition. In order to keep offerings diversified, the Batesoles order Grand Firs and Fraser Firs for those who want those species or prefer not to cut their own trees. Another service for customers is to stay open through Dec. 23, which especially helps those who use the many campgrounds for family holiday gatherings from Christmas through New Year’s.
The beautifully trimmed trees require an intensive work year, which begins in February by redoing the business plan and proceeds through March, when White Pine bare root seedlings are planted followed by containerized seedlings being planted in April. Another part of the spring routine is ordering precut trees for the next December. Continuous tree care through weed control, pest control and shaping carry on throughout the summer. Because some species lose their color in dormancy beginning in the fall, the trees are sprayed with a permanent organic colorant that gives that luscious, healthy color everybody loves. Beginning Nov. 1, everything revs up to high gear, a condition fondly named Def Con 1.
“This is really a family affair and it takes five of us during peak time,” said Brian. “While our son Noah is in airman leader school and will not be able to join us, our daughter Gracie, who just married Dakota Rich, will return to be our cashier with her husband an integral part of our business plan. We are a family ready to say hello again to families we have watched grow during the last 17 years and are racing to have everything in perfect condition for a fun family Christmas activity.”
Just to make sure they don’t get bored during the summer, the Batesoles raise and sell five varieties of blueberries, which ripen mid-June through July. They are southern varieties that can handle the heat and offer fresh berries when others cannot. The species include Climax, Onslow, Premier, Tif Blue and Ka-Bluey. While not registered as organic, organic practices are used to raise the berries which are “you pick” though pre-picked are available upon request. Plans are in the work to expand blueberry acreage and varieties.