Pining for Christmas

Local farms offer option to chop own tree

Boyd Ruth walks through the Christmas trees he has for sale in his front yard. The Ruth family sells trees from home. (Gwen Titley | Director of Photography)

(Left to right) Boyd, Jack and Trevor Ruth, stand in front of the sign advertising their Christmas-tree business. The Ruth farm has been in the family since 1951. Boyd started selling Christmas trees in 1986. (Gwen Titley | Director of Photography)

For Athens County residents looking to get in the holiday spirit, several Christmas-tree farms cater to those who want to cut down their own tree, in Griswold-esque fashion.

For John Hutchison, the owner of a private 140-acre farm off of Worley West Road in Albany, allowing strangers to cut down their tree on his property has been a part of his business model for almost 25 years.

Hutchison started out leaving three handsaws and a shovel near his mailbox so that visitors were able to chop down their own tree. All Hutchison asked was for visitors to leave $15 dollars behind as a payment.

“We have an honor system at our farm,” Hutchison said. “When I first started, I put an old mailbox in the field and people would put the money in after they cut down their tree. It worked beautifully for a few years, but eventually someone started coming and cleaning out the mailbox of the money, so I put a lock on it.”

Though there are some “bad apples” that take advantage of Hutchison’s business model, he said he tends to make more money than he budgets for himself each year.

Hutchison attracts hundreds of buyers each year because cutting down trees is not allowed on public or private property, said Dan Perko, wildlife officer for the Ohio Department of Wildlife.

“Any state-administered land is off-limits to people wanting to cut down a tree,” said Perko. “There are some private tree farms, like Hutchison’s, so people are able to do business there.”

Similar to the Hutchison’s farm, Boyd Ruth, owner of Ruth’s Christmas Trees, has turned Christmas-tree selling into a family business.

With three generations of Ruths literally working under the same roof, the Ruths have been selling Christmas trees from their house for 25 years. Ruth hopes to sell trees to some OU students before winter break.

“We advertised in (The Post) for the first time this year because we’re hoping to catch some of the students in houses and apartments,” Ruth said. “We’re anticipating a little more sales because of (the change to semesters).”

In the past, Ruth said he has sold trees to some graduate and international students staying on campus over break, but this year undergraduate students have become a focus.

“I’ve noticed some students coming because they’re here for three weeks longer than in years past, and it’s definitely starting to make a difference,” he said. “I’ve seen some pickup. The next two weekends will be the biggest for sales among students and faculty.”

However, for Jake Prokopchak, a junior studying engineering and technology management, and his four roommates, a fake Christmas tree was the right choice for them.

“We have a six-foot-tall tree in our house that has some decorated lights on it,” Prokopchak said. “We also put some empty beer boxes underneath to make it look like presents.”

Though there are several Christmas-tree farms in Athens and surrounding counties, Prokopchak found his plastic tree online.

“We were just up late one night and looking at trees online, and since it was only $30 we thought, ‘why not?’ ” he said. “Since it’s fake, we definitely plan on using it next year too.”

Ruth’s Christmas Trees is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Christmas Eve. The trees range from $4 to $8 for each foot of height.

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