Happy kids, an appealing, eco-friendly product — what’s not to like about a cut-your-own Christmas tree operation? It’s a win-win situation, says Brian Bartels, who with his wife, Kara, and parents, Steve and Judy Bartels, operates Bartels Farm in Hamilton. The operation features fresh-cut Christmas trees, a live Nativity scene, tractor rides, and a Christmas shop.
“You can have people come out — and from our experience everybody is in a good mood — the product is good, it’s good for the environment, it’s an all-around win,” says Brian, who also is a firefighter and EMT.
Agriculture has been in the Bartels family for generations. Steve’s father, Ralph Bartels, farmed the 124 acres where Christmas trees now grow, and Judy’s father, Bill Schenck, also farmed. Because of their influence, Brian wants the farm, on Butler Rural Electric Cooperative lines, to be as good as it can be.
“Judy and I are helping Brian out,” Steve says. “He is the main force — this is his passion.”
Steve Bartels retired in 2009 after 35 years as an Ohio State University Extension educator in Butler County. Judy has been a registered nurse for more than 40 years.
The Bartels family planted the farm’s first trees in 2008. Their “bread and butter trees,” Brian explains, are Canaan firs — currently the most popular Christmas tree in Ohio. They also have Scotch pines, white pines, and blue spruce.
Judy and Kara Bartels are involved, too. Kara manages the website and does other design work, while Judy supervises the Christmas Shop — a lambing barn transitioned into a retail store. “I try to have unique gift ideas; I have little farm animal ornaments, candles, and wreaths made from our farm-fresh greens,” she says.
Clint and Theresa Combs, with their kids, are loyal customers. “It’s wonderful to shop there for a tree,” Clint says. “The staff is knowledgeable. You get a fresh tree that will last for the whole season. The kids like the hot chocolate and the tractor ride. What is great, too, is you get to support a local farm, and that is important to us.”
Celeste Baumgartner is a freelance writer from Hamilton.