K. Dickess Tree Farm has three-generation history
ANDIS, Ohio -- As the freshly cut tree was loaded on top of the Martin's family SUV, the three Martin boys watched with interest.
"This is our second year here. Last year, we really enjoyed walking the farm to pick out our tree," said Kristie Martin, mom of Jacob, 14, Aaron, 11, and Hunter, 9. "It was important to the boys that we come back this year." The family had traveled from Wurtland, Ky., to the K. Dickess Tree Farm in Andis, Ohio, about 10 miles east of Ironton.
Her husband, Mike, helped employees lift the tree onto the just car after the family watched as their selected tree was placed in the "tree-shaker," where all loose needles were vibrated off the tree at a rapid pace.
"That was so cool," Jacob said, his younger brothers nodding in agreement.
As the Martin family drove away down the winding hilltop road, another family, the Fergusons of Ashland, Ky., pulled up. Charles Ferguson said he had fond memories of visiting the Dickess Tree Farm in the early 1980s. "I brought my own boys out then. They'd run the hills in search of the perfect tree. It was our tradition." Now, Ferguson is bringing his grandchildren.
"I spent over 20 years away from the Tri-State area," he said. "Now that I'm back, I wanted to carry on the tradition with the next generation."
It is these types of family traditions and memories that motivate second-generation family member, Keith Lee Dickess, 36, to keep his father's farm successfully operating. The farm has been in business for as long as Keith Dickess has been alive.
"It was a such a positive environment in which to grow up," he said.
As a young child, beginning at age 6, Keith Dickess would run to get water or lunch for the employees as well as update them on scores of football games. "Then, when I wasn't needed, I'd play with any of the kids who were here with their family to buy a tree. I can't tell you how many basketball games I played right there where our tree barn is now."
Dickess said his family now has the privilege of seeing third generations visiting the tree farm to pick out their annual Christmas tree, just as members of the third generation of the Dickess family are helping out on the farm now.
Dickess' nieces, Audrey Fosson, 14, and Olivia Fosson, 10, help in any way needed when they are not in school. They can usually be found selling baked goods, snacks and crafts in the tree farm's Christmas Store, which opened in 2011. Their mom, Debby Fosson, helps to make those wreaths and crafts.
"I think Olivia is going to be the one who takes this farm over from me," Dickess said. "She is already asking questions about how to run the business end. She's got a sharp mind."
Four-legged family member Vedder, Dickess' Australian shepherd, also "helps" on the farm. Vedder can be seen greeting customers in his mild-mannered, even-tempered way, helping kids and adults alike feel right at home when they come to select a tree.
In addition to family tradition, Dickess says there are other advantages to running a family owned and operated business.
"It's always been fluent among our family. We trust one another and possess the same values," he said.
And while running a Christmas tree farm involves a great deal of work the public doesn't see, the overall environment remains positive because he is working with his family. "It is our family tradition to run and operate this farm; and, we get to provide a family tradition for other families. What could be better than that?"
Even given the current economy, Dickess said his sales have continued to rise over the past the three years. The Christmas tree, he said, is often the centerpiece of Christmas in the home. If a family does not have any other decorations, they are almost certain to have a tree.
"We see our farm continuing to grow over the next seven to nine years," said Dickess, who plans to plant 4,000 more trees this spring. "We see our sales trending upward; and, we are hoping to go into the wholesale business, so that tree lots like Big Brothers and Big Sisters can purchase their trees from us to ensure their clients get fresh trees."
The tree farm now sponsors a 5K/10K trail run the third weekend in October. Plus, they are planning for "pumpkin hunts" for kids in the fall. "We tried out two this past fall and learned from them. It was such a positive experience, we plan to expand the idea next year." Dickess also hosts a variety of schools for field trips to his farms and allows schools to sell their products for fundraisers.
"We like contributing to our community and local economy," Dickess said, adding that he is especially pleased that part of the taxes his business pays supports the local volunteer fire department. "These volunteers are great guys, who do not get a lot of praise and deserve my support."
The farm also has a Facebook page where customers can upload pictures of their decorated tree.
"One woman went home and decorated her tree with a peacock theme," Dickess said, laughing as he explained that was a first for him. Still, he said, viewing his Facebook page and seeing all the family Christmas tree pictures serves to reinforce his desire to keep the family tradition -- both his and those of his customers -- alive for decades to come.
Where: 2888 County Road 61, Andis, OH 45645-9010 (about 10 miles from U.S. 52 at Ironton, Coal Grove, Chesapeake and Proctorville)
Services: Families can walk the farm and pick their own tree, then tag it with a date. On that date, employees will cut the tree, shake off excess needles with a motorized shaker, prepare the tree for transport and load it on your vehicle. You can also have your tree cut and loaded the same day. Customers can also order custom-made, fresh wreaths.
Products: Tree varieties include Scotch pine, white pine, Colorado spruce and firs, in a variety of sizes up to 12 feet tall. The Christmas Store sells fresh wreaths, handmade Christmas crafts and ornaments, wood crafts, tree supplies, wrapping paper, baked goods and more.
Hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. seven days a week after Thanksgiving. There is also an indoor tree lot open between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Web: kdickesstreefarm.com, and K. Dickess Tree Farm on Facebook.