Archive for Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Thriving tree farm has modest roots

A high school experiment bears successful business for Basehor family, community

November 26, 2003

From humble beginnings in 1976 rose one of the longest standing businesses in Basehor -- the Wilderson Tree Farm -- located at 14820 Parallel Road.

The 18-acre tree farm will officially open for the season Friday, Nov. 28, the day after Thanksgiving. The tree farm offers Scotch, Austrian and White pines and, on a more limited basis, Wisconsin imports such as Fraser and Balsam fir trees.

Back in 1976, David Wilderson, son of Chuck, tree farm owner and operator, told his parents he wanted to plant an acre of trees at the family's new home in Basehor.

What started as an experiment has resulted in a successful business for the Wilderson family. The tree farm helped pay for David's college expenses ("Ol' dad saw that and thought, man, that's a pretty good idea") and, more than a quarter century later, Chuck Wilderson is still offering his trees to families for the Yuletide season.

"It's surprised me, but I really enjoy it," Wilderson said. "I like to work outside, I like to grow things and I like working with the families that come here looking for a Christmas tree."

In the last four years, the Wilderson Tree Farm has seen some of its strongest years: more than 900 trees have been sold each year culminated by last season's 950 trees sold.

Wilderson said between 500 and 2,000 trees are planted each year; the total number of trees at the Wilderson Tree Farm is approximately 8,500. It takes seven to 10 years to cultivate trees to sell.

In between, each tree is cared for by inspection, pruning, shearing and shaping.

The tree farm isn't just grab a tree and go: the same attention put into each Wilderson tree is also placed into providing more than just a routine business for customers.

Wilderson said his business offers "more of a family experience than anything else," by offering hayrides, hot chocolate and an overall festive atmosphere to customers.We sure do have a loyal customer base," Wilderson said. "There are more families that use artificial trees than there used to be, but there are still a lot of families that bring the whole family out to pick up a Christmas tree. Once you get a real tree, you hardly ever go back."

A forgotten benefit the tree farm lends to the area is the seasonal employment it offers local teen-agers during the holiday season.

Wilderson said his business employs approximately 15 teen-agers during the holidays.

"That's one of the side benefits as well," Wilderson said.

"It's only part-time, but it gives employment to the kids and for a lot of them, it's their first job," he added. "It's really something to see. They're kind of like Christmas trees, you get to see them grow and mature."

The Wilderson Tree Farm will be open for business Nov. 28 to Christmas. From Monday through Friday, the tree farm is open from 1 to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, contact the Wilderson Tree Farm at (913) 724-1057.

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