The final cut: Reinhart U-cut Christmas tree farm closes after 40 years

December 2015 Posted in Business
Scott and Pat Reinhart were the second and third generations to run the Reinhart Tree Farm in the Silverton Hills.

Scott and Pat Reinhart were the second and third generations to run the Reinhart Tree Farm in the Silverton Hills.

By Kristine Thomas

There’s a reason why Patrick Reinhart, 26, and his dad, Scott Reinhart, 58, have tried to avoid going into the shop at their Christmas tree farm near Silver Falls State Park.

They don’t want to be around to see people’s reaction when they are told it’s the last year the Reinharts will be selling U-Cut Christmas trees.  After being in the Christmas tree business for 40 years, the Reinharts have decided to stop selling trees to the public. The last day was Dec. 13. Patrick said the farm is switching to crops that are less labor intensive, such as growing grass seed, oats, wheat and hazelnuts.

“It’s too tough for me to go into the shop,” Patrick said. “I don’t want to see people’s tears.”

Both men admitted they tear up a bit at the idea of no longer selling trees.

“We are the start of the Christmas season for many people,” Scott said. “It’s been a tradition for many families to visit us year-after-year to cut their Christmas tree.”

Don and Norma Reinhart planted Christmas trees in the 1960s, starting with Silvertips before switching to Noble Firs.

Don and Norma have shared they feel it isn’t fair to the little ones whose parents and grandparents have visited the farm for year. “Yet we can not continue,” they said.

Don and Norma will miss seeing their old friends and family members who visit the farm to cut their tree, talk about what’s happening and reminisce about the old days.

They recall when the tress were sold  wholesale until they placed a sign along Silver Falls Highway announcing U-Cut.

They never advertised their farm. Instead, people just found them by driving to the state park or from hearing about the farm from friends or family members.

“I call this the Christmas tree field the field of dreams,” Scott said. “We planted the trees and people came. I think they like that getting their tree is an experience and it’s a day in the country.”

Over the years, Patrick and his parents Jean and Scott have seen newlyweds selecting their first tree together, then the couple arrives with their first child and then their children bringing their own children to the farm. They were joined in the wonderful experience of greeting guests along with their family, Don, Norma, Twila, Virgil, DeAnn, Jeremy, Kate, David, Jen, Adelaide, Natalie, David Jr., Daniel, Brigida, Cameron, Chris and Erin.

“What warms, and sometimes breaks our hearts the most, is seeing the families grow from year-to-year, seeing how their lives have changed, be it new additions, or the loss of a close loved one,” the family said. “These people have brought us in, to be a part of their family – in such a small way – we rejoice in their joy, and share in their sorrow.”

Patrick said the trees left on the property have either been sold to a neighboring farm or to a wholesaler to make holiday wreaths. They are keeping some trees for the family to cut over the years.

“Maybe in 10 or 20 years, I will grow Christmas trees again,” Patrick said.

Since he was in fourth grade, Patrick has known he has wanted to be a farmer. He recently attended a conference and keeps up on farming news. His challenge is planting crops that will make a profit for the farm.

“If you look at the progression of what has been grown in the Silver Hills, it started with strawberries, then grass, then Christmas trees and now grass is coming back,” he said.

Jean listed several reasons why families make visiting their farm part of their holiday tradition. One of the main reasons was the trees, which are Noble fir.

Scott, Jean and Patrick all agree their customers feel welcome at their farm.

“People don’t feel like we are trying to sell them something when they come here,” Patrick said. “We provide them with an experience.”

From inviting people to grab a saw by the front door to offering to haul the tree on the trailer pulled by a 4-wheeler to shaking and bundling it, the Reinharts aim to provide excellent customer service.

There are cookies, candy canes, hot cider and coffee in the shop along with the Talking Christmas Tree and a wood stove to warm up to after hiking through the fields in search of a tree. For the Reinharts, it’s more than selling Christmas trees.

Jean wrote they are in awe of “all the lives we have touched.”

“The wholesale market is pretty much sight unseen as to the end consumer, but for U-cuts, it is a whole different story with thousands of chapters,” Jean wrote. “It is hard to fathom how many people’s lives we have touched with just the single element of a Christmas tree grown on our farm. It is not just a business but an extension of family. Those who have patronized our farm – who have come to this farm in the small community in the Silverton Hills, taken home a Christmas tree and shared it in its final splendor from the touch of loving hands with their family and friends – we cannot express the joy it gives us.”

Over the years, there have been customers who forget their wallet or checkbook or money at home. Jean said they would give the customer their business card and tell them to mail the money. A few days later, they would receive the payment and a thank you note.

“We feel our business is based on faith and belief in the good will of people – though some found it hard to believe we would extend the courtesy to send the payment in when we didn’t even know them,” Jean said.

Just as they have watched their customers’ families grow and change, the same is true with their family.

“No longer do we have the teenage kids clamoring to drive the ATVs,” Jean wrote. “They are now grown, some married, some have children of their own, and all have other obligations. It has been a difficult and emotional decision to discontinue the U-cut operation, but before we close the doors on u-cuts, we chose to stay open this year to tell our customers one last time ‘thank you.’   Thank-you for allowing us to be a part of your Christmas tradition.”

The Nealon family of Silverton has been making visiting Reinhart Tree Farm a tradition since December of 2001 when Jack was one years old.

Now 15 years old, Jack along with Chloe, 13, and Grant, 11, visited the farm for the last time with their parents, Jim and Shelly.

“Reinhart Farms was the very first Christmas Tree Farm we had ever been to,” Shelly said. “We moved here in July 2001 and found this farm when we were traveling up Silver Falls Highway in December 2001. I decided to take Jack’s Christmas picture there for our Christmas card. We just loved it. They have always been so nice and welcoming. Exactly what we dreamed of having for our family tradition. Cookies, cider and that talking tree. All three of my kids loved the talking tree. I believe that was the most popular attraction my kids looked forward to when going there. Rain, sleet, snow or shine… We always went there to cut down our tree.. Used their saws and when we got done, we would get some cider and a cookie in the barn. I will truly miss it.”

And that’s exactly why Patrick and Scott avoid the shop and Jean keeps busy in the shop handing out cookies and candy canes – all to avoid tearing up.

“We are going to miss the families that we see here each year,” the family said. “Looking back, this has been an amazing journey with the family and members of the community”.

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