The holidays are filled with traditions, and for many, that includes an annual trek to a Christmas tree farm. One local favorite is Krueger’s Christmas Tree farm in Lake Elmo. Every year, Neil and Deb Krueger, with a host of family and friends, don their red coats and bring on the cheer to help usher in the season.
This holiday tradition came about as happenstance. Al and Elaine Krueger, Neil’s parents, planted trees at the original farm in Stillwater hoping to control erosion and promote reforestation. Over time, neighbors commented on the beauty of those trees and inquired whether they might cut one for their own holiday celebrations. In 1954, the first Krueger Christmas tree was sold.
When Neil asked for Deb’s hand in marriage, growing Christmas trees was part of the bargain. “Moving out here was a new way of living, but I said, ‘I would love to be a tree farmer,’ ” Deb says.
With Neil’s degree in forestry and the couple’s combined experience working alongside Al and Elaine, they were well-suited to expand the business to their own 50-acre Lake Elmo farm. They planted their initial seedling on the site when their children were 4 and 7 years old, and harvested the first tree in 1992. “We have been here now for 35 years,” Neil says. “This was originally one of my grandparents’ farms. We are working the same fields that my Grandfather Krueger worked, so that’s kind of special.”
The Kruegers are members of the Minnesota Christmas Tree Association, which works with growers to provide the freshest and widest variety of trees available. The farm also promotes environmental stewardship, both in the way they care for their trees and by recycling trees after the holidays, using the trees to mulch new seedlings in the spring. “The emphasis of our farm is education and the environment,” Neil says. While they don’t ask for tips, when offered they will use the money to sponsor environmental groups.
For dates, times, and event information, visit the website here.
The elder Kruegers sold the Stillwater farm in 1994, handing down the business and decades of tradition to Neil and Deb. With their own son and daughter now grown, with spouses and children of their own, the multi-generational clan continues the Krueger Christmas tree legacy, now in its fourth generation.
On the Saturday before Thanksgiving each year, the farm opens its doors to customers looking for high-quality, cut-your-own or pre-cut trees, along with garland, wreaths, swags, and spruce tops, and anything essential to deck the halls. Children come for a chance to sit on Santa’s lap, take a sleigh ride, hear Native American tales told in an authentic teepee, cozy up by the campfire or sample apple cider in the warming house.
Parents appreciate the farm’s extended hours (seven days a week, open until 8 p.m.), and complimentary tree shaking, wrapping and tying to the car.
For others, the pleasure of visiting the farm is taking a quiet, leisurely walk through the 10-acre woods to recharge and reconnect with the land during the harried holiday season.
For Chris Zupfer and his family, a trip from their home in Little Canada to the tree farm marks the official start of their holiday. “We have young children and go there at night, he says. “From the moment you drive down the road, it’s all lit up and the farm is gorgeous. The kids absolutely love it.”
Zupfer sums up the Krueger Christmas Trees experience by saying, “I love that it’s local and sustainable, and that Neil, Deb and the family are all there. We get to see everybody and they know you and it feels like a small community business. That’s been exceptional for us.”
When the holiday season is over the Kruegers afford themselves the luxury of travel before returning to the fields in the spring. According to Deb, it’s all part of the circle of life. “Year after year, the same people come back,” she says. “Last year they were pregnant, this year the baby’s walking. Last year was the last time we saw Mr. So-and-So, this year he’s not here. That’s how we mark our time in this life.”