Farm Progress

’Tis the season

Slideshow: Noffke Tree Farms has something “fir” everyone.

Harlen Persinger

November 14, 2018

6 Slides

After their marriage in 1952, Leonard and Lucille Noffke started their own roofing company. However, to add extra income during the off-season, they bought 60 acres in Waushara County, Wis., and began growing Christmas trees. That enterprise, Noffke Tree Farms, now covers 300 acres; they are spread across four locations, with the home base and sales lot in Mequon.

“Besides myself, there are many family members and one part-timer that handle ground maintenance, planting, basal pruning, shearing, harvest and tie trees, plus 12 nieces and nephews and friends that pitch in on other chores,” says Kathy Gross, vice president and the Noffkes’ eldest daughter. “Presently, balsam firs account for 50% of all cut-your-own trees, while 50% of the Fraser firs are precut. Our inventory also includes: Scotch, spruce, Colorado, white and Norway pine.”

Trees begin their lives in Wisconsin and Michigan nurseries and are grown into 2-year-old seedlings. They are planted in rows 5 to 6 feet apart. During their eight- to 10-year growth cycle, trees face many hazards, such as too little or too much sun and rain, plus destruction from rodents, insects and deer. Spraying, weeding and applying fertilizer are year-round jobs. An average of three trees is planted for every one that is finally harvested.

“Selecting a tree from the Noffkes’ began 62 years ago. After deer hunting, my parents and three sisters traveled to their farm the Saturday after Thanksgiving,” recalls Sue Hanson from Hartford. “That holiday tradition now includes 15 of us who will take home six trees. We cherish this exciting, festive day full of fellowship with lifelong friends that hopefully will never end.”

Click through the slideshow to see photos from the tree farm.

Persinger writes from Milwaukee, Wis.

About the Author(s)

Harlen Persinger

Harlen Persinger is a photojournalist who lives in Milwaukee. Since 2004, he has freelanced for regional and national farm publications such as Wisconsin Agriculturist and Farm Industry News, plus many others.

Persinger grew up on a farm in Grundy County, Iowa. He received a degree in ag journalism from Iowa State University in 1972. He has traveled to more than 40 countries and has been a member of the American Agricultural Editors’ Association (now Agricultural Communicators Network) since 1976. In 2016, he was the first photojournalist/freelancer to receive the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2017, Persinger began providing college scholarships to 4-H’ers from his home county who have an interest in photography/journalism and agriculture. He was inducted into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame in 2023.

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