Creating Evergreen Memories

Mother-Daughter Team Operates Carroll’s Country Christmas Trees

Story and photos by Craig Reed

Mother and daughter were both in education before taking on the family business.

Sharon Carroll and her daughter, Chantal Wright, love being part of the Christmas season celebrations of thousands of families and businesses.

Their farm operation, Carroll’s Country Christmas Trees, will provide Christmas trees for its 44th year.

“It’s rewarding,” Sharon says. “I guess the best part is when somebody comes back the next year and drops me a note, saying their tree was the best they’d ever had. That makes me happy.”

“I just love the experience here,” Chantal says of seeing families select their trees. “I love providing that experience for families, seeing how happy everybody is, seeing friends and families together as they pick a tree. That’s the joy I get.”

These Christmas experiences and memories 1st began in 1979 after Sharon’s family bought 80 acres near Veneta. Christmas trees were growing on 15 of those acres.

“We were a logging family, so we knew about trees,” Sharon says. “This was a chance to take on a new opportunity. We did have to learn about growing Christmas trees, spraying and fertilizing, and trimming them.”

Sharon was a secondary school teacher in Lowell during those early years when the Christmas tree business was getting established. In 1986, she left the classroom and became the full-time manager of the tree farm. Her father, Kerney Simpson, helped on the farm for a few years and eventually left the farm and business decisions to his daughter.

Under Sharon’s management, the farm grew to 100 acres of Christmas trees on 3 different sites, all in the Veneta area. There are 70,000 to 80,000 trees ranging from 1 to 20 years old on the land. Tree varieties are Douglas fir, noble fir, Nordmann fir, and grand fir.

“The Nordmann fir is the favorite tree of most customers,” Sharon says. “People with allergies should get a Nordmann because it is the least fragrant.

“The Nordmann fir and the noble fir last longer, through the New Year,” she adds.

Chantal was also an elementary school teacher for several years. In 2017, she left the profession to help her mother with the tree business.

“I love it,” Chantal says of working with her mother. “She’s a wonderful person to work with. There are hard-working moments, but also fun moments. If there are issues, they are short-lived. We’ve created some great stories together.

“She’s the best boss I’ve ever had, and she’s my mom.”

Chantal, 44, says her mother has plenty of energy at 73.

Wooden bears adorn signage on the farm.

While the mother and daughter manage the farm, they get plenty of seasonal help from other members of the family. Sharon’s son, Nathan Stapleton, and daughter-in-law, Jeni—who owns Stapleton Timber and Excavation—and her daughter, Stacy, and son-in-law, Chet Kokkeler—who own Scapes Unlimited—work when needed. Grandchildren McKenzye May, Karsyn Stapleton, Kai Stapleton, Ryann Kokkeler, Kali Kokkeler, and Shara Wright also help.

Other local businesses that work with the trees are Skeet Hise Tree Management and Alexander Maggio, a tree planter and harvester.

During the Christmas tree-selling season, members of the Elmira High School Athletic Department and teams help with a variety of jobs. In many cases, it’s a 1st job experience for students.

The harvest season for the farm begins in early November when trees are cut and shipped in a refrigerated container to Oahu, Hawaii. Sharon lived in Hawaii for a few years in the late 1980s. She developed Christmas tree sales there as a fundraiser for a church school. The sales expanded to Maui and Oahu for several years, but now trees are sold only at the Oahu school site.

Paul Wright, Chantal’s husband, travels to Oahu each year to manage the site, which is usually open for only 7 to 10 days. The sales are a fundraiser for the church school.

For many years, the business also shipped trees by truckloads to California, Arizona, and other parts of the U.S. Those deliveries were gradually decreased and by 2005, the farm had narrowed its sales market to just its home farm lot and the Oahu site.

Sales on the home farm start on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Visitors can walk through Carroll’s Country Christmas Trees’ field at 26260 Perkins Road in Veneta to select and cut their own trees. U-cut trees must be 6 feet or taller and are usually available for only the 1st 2 weeks of the harvest season.

A “bargain corral” of pre-cut trees between 5-and-a-half and 6-and-a-half feet tall are priced at $40 each. Other pre-cut trees are available in a wide range of heights and prices.

Trees can also be ordered online and delivered to businesses or homes within 20 miles of the farm.

“Seeing the families come out is so much fun,” Sharon says. “The connections, the relationships we’ve made over the years—that’s the bonus.

“So many families depend on us for a tree. It’s their tradition. They tell us how many years they’ve been coming. We share the tradition with them. They’re happy, so we’re happy.”