Hensler Nursery Offers Firs, Fun and Holiday Festivities
If you’re going to make the trek to a Christmas tree farm to find the perfect evergreen, it should be worth the trip.
Hensler Nursery makes sure you have plenty of entertainment in addition to picking out a Christmas tree when you visit their farm in tiny Hamlet, Indiana. Many Chicagoans make the three-hour round trip to visit Santa and Mrs. Claus, nibble on holiday goodies, tailgate in the Hensler parking lot and, of course, pick out the perfect tree for Christmas. These are just some of the activities available during the annual Christmas Fest at the 300-acre farm.
The Hensler family has a long history in the tree business. Stanley and Kathryn Hensler started raising trees from seed in 1953. Stanley was attracted to Starke County because of the sandy soil, and he noticed Scotch pines were growing on small tree farms nearby. He decided to try his hand at Christmas trees on his land, according to his son, John Hensler, who took over the family business in 1977 when Hensler Nursery incorporated. These days, John’s son, Joe, runs day-to-day operations along with a team of employees, some of whom have been with Hensler’s for more than 30 years.
John launched Christmas Fest as a marketing strategy when the family realized they might draw more people to their farm if those visitors had more to do when they arrived. “It takes only a few minutes to pick out a tree, and that’s OK,” John says. “But a lot of people will come and stay for hours because of the other things to explore while they are here.”
Fun Activities for All
The season kicks off the day after Thanksgiving. Santa and Mrs. Claus officially arrive on the Saturday after Thanksgiving via the annual Christmas Parade, courtesy of local fire departments. Christmas Fest, which continues daily through Dec. 23, features décor, treats, stocking stuffers and gifts in the Christmas Barn. Children can climb on the wooden Hensler Express, and they can see deer, turkeys and other live animals. Christmas Fest really bustles on weekends through Dec. 15, when Santa and Mrs. Claus open their workshop and listen to Christmas wishes from all ages. In the heated Eats Barn, local organizations offer food and beverages for sale.
If you want to make a day of it, ask the Henslers to reserve a firepit for you. “We like the idea that people want to have their own personal holiday party on our farm,” says John, who notes that some firepits are reserved as early as July. And Hensler’s isn’t just family-friendly, it’s also pet-friendly for dogs kept on leashes.
The Main Event: Picking a Tree
Hensler Nursery Inc. 5715 North 750 East Hamlet, IN 46532 Located right off Highway 30 Phone: (574) 867-4192 Open daily for Christmas Fest Nov. 29-Dec. 23, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If You Go
Hensler Nursery Inc.
5715 North 750 East
Hamlet, IN 46532
Located right off Highway 30
Phone: (574) 867-4192
Open daily for Christmas Fest Nov. 29-Dec. 23, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
When you’re ready to pick a tree, the crew will help you find the perfect Scotch pine, Fraser fir or white pine. More than 60% of the Hensler stock is Fraser fir, a variety that tends to be more popular both in the Midwest and nationally. The Scotch pine is a traditional favorite, although John personally loves the fragrant, soft-needled white pine. “It’s all personal preference,” John says.
To pick a tree, first remember that trees always look smaller in the field than they do in your family room. “Look for a tree that’s appropriate for the room size,” John advises. “After that, it’s a matter of finding a tree that satisfies that inner feeling that this is the one you need to take home.” If you want to cut it down yourself, the good folks at Hensler’s will shake and bale it for you. If you want a tree already freshly cut, Hensler’s has a large selection of those as well.
In addition to raising Christmas trees for retail, Hensler’s is one of the few Indiana nurseries that raises seedlings and transplants to sell to other growers. According to John, it takes seven to 10 years to grow a 7-foot Scotch pine, and that it’s not easy to operate a Christmas tree-growing operation. But there is something about a real Christmas tree that can’t be replicated by even the most stunning artificial tree.
“People want a real tree for the experience and the fragrance and because it’s unique,” John says. “You buy a real tree because it’s authentic. A real tree will be different each year, and that makes it special.”