Growing Christmas Trees

December 14, 2018

A farmer plants evergreen seedlings on his farm and seven years later is selling them as Christmas trees.

Joe Bybee started growing Christmas trees on his family farm simply because he likes “planting the evergreen trees and watching them grow.” His three acres of Christmas trees also complement another 33 acres of CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) with prairie grass, windbreaks, waterways and two ponds.

In a visit to the Bybee Christmas Tree Farm, you can’t help but love the quaintness of this family farm, that is, once you find it! It’s located a few miles northwest of Lee on Herman Road, down a winding gravel lane to their hidden place in the woods.

Joe Bybee (center) enjoys talking to families which come to his farm to pick and cut their own Christmas tree. He has three acres of trees and sells about 250 trees annually.

Before you get to the Christmas trees you see a set of small charming buildings, which Joe built. A cabin with a wood stove, where people pay for their tree and enjoy cookies and cocoa. A workshop where the Bybees assemble wreaths. And a garden shed to store supplies. Oh, and there’s the outhouse, too!

There are 2,000 Christmas trees growing at the Bybee Farm; they have sold about 250 trees this holiday season. This is their fifth year for selling the White Pine and Caanan Fir varieties.

Nathan Bailey assembles a wreath in the Bybee workshop. Nathan and his wife Lizzy (Bybee) and their children return home for three consecutive weekends to help with tree sales.

“It’s been a good year for trees,” said Joe. He calls himself the “utility and production guy” who plants and shapes the trees, mows strips of grass between the trees and handles weed control, among other things. He’s a tree farmer on weekends and on weekdays he works for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Years ago, Joe was a grain farmer who farmed as much as 600 acres of corn and soybeans, with his mother.

“The best part about growing and selling Christmas trees is it brings the entire family home (from Springfield and Chicago),” says Joe. His wife Pam agrees, “The whole family helps with weekend tree sales.”

Lizzy Bybee Bailey decorates mantel pieces with evergreens from the farm.

Daughter, Lizzy, and husband, Nathan Bailey, take charge of assembling and decorating the wreaths, mantel pieces, and crosses for customers. And grandchildren Evie, Jack, Joseph and Henry help where needed (especially with the cookies, candy canes and cocoa). Sons Andrew and Sam shake, bale and secure trees for transport.

Sam Bybee shakes loose needles from a tree with the help of his nephew Jack Bailey for a customer.

The Bybee Christmas Tree Farm attracts local, young families as well as a few from the western suburbs. Pam, a DeKalb school teacher, especially enjoys seeing some of her former students who now are adults with families.

“We like to keep it simple for our family and for other families,” says Joe. That’s why they are only open the three weekends after Thanksgiving.

“We build relationships and love seeing families come back year after year,” said Pam.