Though the Krueger's Christmas Tree farm is on its second location, the passion for growing the festive trees remains untouched. Neil and Deb Krueger, alongside their son John, are proud to practice sustainable farming and environmental stewardship, and they work year-round to ensure the farm offers the best of the best Christmas trees.
The current Lake Elmo farm has been in the family for more than a century, but the land wasn't originally used as a Christmas tree farm. Dating back to 1916, Neil’s grandparents used the land for cattle grazing and dairy farming, but after his grandparents retired in the 1940s, the land was sold to Neil’s uncle.
The farm again became purchasable real estate in the 1980s, and though Neil and Deb were Stillwater residents, it was a no-brainer to purchase the land and continue the family’s farming legacy. The couple officially purchased the farm in 1983 and began planting Christmas trees right away—while still managing Neil’s childhood Christmas tree farm in Stillwater.
Growing up on a Christmas tree farm in the 1950s, Neil describes it as tedious work. “When I was young, we worked on the tree farm, planting, shaving and selling trees,” he says. “I didn’t like it at the time, but as I got older, I realized it’s nice.”
Although the original tree farm location in the St. Croix Valley is now retail space, his birthright, as some may say, continues in Lake Elmo at Krueger’s Christmas Trees.
Photo by Tate Carlson
“Our emphasis on the farm is education and environmental stewardship,” Deb says. “How we farm, what we farm and being organic is important.”
The Krueger farm offers tours for grade schools and donates to different organizations each year. In 2019, the Kruegers donated over $4,000 to Save the Boundary Waters. They’ve also donated to the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and Wilderness Inquiry.
“It’s always very successful,” Deb says. “We’re concerned about the environment. It’s not just about planting a single crop, but about the entire environment: the land, the animals and the crops.”
Each season, the Kruegers rotate the crops to enrich the soil, mulch using the chipped-up Christmas trees from the previous season and plant several thousand new Christmas trees. A typical tree takes 8–10 years to fully grow, and, if lucky, will have a 90 percent survival rate.
And because the farm uses few to no chemicals, most of the work is done by hand, including mowing, trimming and mulching. “Since we’ve been growing trees, we’ve never used pesticides,” Neil says. “It’s because of the diversity of our land, we have ponds and wetlands, and the variety brings in more animals and birds.”
“We live on the land, and it’s a gift. It’s sacred,” Deb says. “We have a Native American burial ground on our land, so we’re very respectful to the animals. We and the land are very interconnected.”
The Kruegers are happy to welcome customers into the fields to cut their own tree or to select pre-cut trees. “Shaking, wrapping, tying it to your car, a fresh cut and the tax is all included in the posted price,” Neil says. The farm usually also welcomes guests into its warming house for cider and visits with Santa, evening shopping and artist-made Christmas ornaments, along with free wagon rides.
For seasonal hours, visit kruegerschristmastrees.com. Check the website for updates regarding COVID-19.