A Hawaiian beach should be about the last place on Earth to inspire a couple to get into Christmas tree farming.
But that’s exactly where Sooke residents Pat and Mervin Brooks came up with the idea for their venture.
“It was the wife’s doing. We were lying under the sun on the beach and Pat turned to me with the idea. That was almost 30 years ago, and we’re still at it,” Mervin Brooks said.
The Brooks’ operate a well-known Christmas tree business on their two-hectare lot on Whiffin Spit Road in Sooke, and Pat said that they’re definitely not a part of the reported shortage of Christmas trees affecting other parts of North America.
“We have about 3,000 trees here and people are welcome to come out, pick one, cut it down, and make it part of their Christmas celebration,” Pat said.
“They aren’t all the perfect conical shaped trees that people sometimes imagine, but there enough out there so that everyone can get the perfect tree for their family, even if a few of them are sort of like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree.”
Mervin said part of the shortage of trees elsewhere might be due to older tree farmers getting out of the business and the younger generation choosing to pursue other options.
“Let’s face it, at $32 a tree, you’re not going to get rich and you won’t be buying that Cadillac any time soon,” he said with a grin.
At the Brooks Christmas Tree Farm, customers are welcome to come in and cut down their own tree, and Pat is happy to lend them a good hand saw to make that happen.
“We have families come in with little children who want to help cutting the trees. We lend them a saw and they’re off to the races. The kids love it”
Of course for those who don’t trust themselves to fell the trees, Mervin is happy to step in to help.
That was the case for Tom Vally as he watched Mervin Brooks make short work of the tree that Vally selected.
“I just love the look and the smell of a real tree. It makes it feel like Christmas,” Vally said.
But people who are hoping to visit a large retailer in search of that perfect tree may be in for disappointment.
The recession of 2008 caused some larger tree farms to curtail their planting as a cost saving measure. A decade later, the amount of time for the perfect Christmas tree to grow to it’s proper height, that action is coming home to roost.
Some species of trees are in short supply and for retailers it’s meant the price might be significantly higher than in previous years, and customers may not leave smiling.
“I think it’s better to come to a smaller operation like ours and cut your own tree anyway, ” Pat said.
“We never had to cut down on our planting and we’ve got lots of trees, just waiting to go to the perfect home.”