Firs have been flying out of Kluck's tree farm for generations
Saginaw — It all started when a neighbor visited Walter Kluck’s dairy farm near Saginaw back in the 1920s.
The neighbor wondered if he could cut a Christmas tree from a stand of 500 pines Kluck had planted on the property.
An enterprising guy, Kluck quickly saw a way to make some extra money.
Now in its fourth generation, Kluck Nursery has grown into the second largest cut-your-own Christmas tree farm in Michigan. Tom Kluck, Walter’s grandson, says the nursery sold just under 5,000 cut-your-own trees this year. The business also sells potted, live Christmas trees for those who wish to plant the tree after the holidays.
The full-scale nursery supplies tens of thousands of trees, shrubs and flowers to retailers all over the state. Walter’s original dairy farm was 160 acres, but the business now uses about 350 acres, according to Tom Kluck. The operation employs 45 workers from the Saginaw/St. Charles area.
Keeping it in the family, Tom Kluck is partnering with his son Tyler, who will someday take over the business. Tom’s mother, Sally, still makes wreaths sold at the Christmas tree concession. His wife Karen works in the nursery office, with payroll and commercial sales. Even Tyler’s fiancée, Tara Gnatkowski, is getting into the act, helping to sell Christmas concessions in the Christmas tree village.
Visitors to the Christmas tree farm are greeted by nursery workers who help select a good, sharp saw, provide a cart or sled (depending on the weather) to move the felled tree, and then help clean and wrap the tree for transport. Pre-cut trees are available for those less adventurous. There’s a warming fire, and concessions for those who build up a big thirst or hunger while lumberjacking.
Kluck’s Christmas trees are either white spruce, balsam fir or Fraser fir. Fraser has become the most popular Christmas tree in the state, because of its compact shape, but traditional buyers are always asking for white spruce. “It’s the tree they grew up with as kids,” explains Kluck.
As visitors leave the nursery, they are presented with Kluck’s trademark popcorn balls, at least one for every visitor. They gave away 12,000 popcorn balls last year. Canine visitors are not overlooked – dog biscuits are offered for the pooches, no matter if they’ve been good or bad.
For those who have heard horror stories about Christmas tree fires, Kluck has some calming advice. He says a real tree that is kept watered is less likely to be a fire hazard than an artificial tree.
“Only a neglected tree is a problem. Fresh, watered needles won’t support a fire,” he said.
The Michigan Christmas Tree Association says needles have to dry below 50 percent moisture before they will burn. In addition, natural trees can be recycled, making them a truly “green” choice.