Your hunt for this year’s Christmas tree may include a trip into the past. Durham is home to four Christmas tree farms. Some are more than a half-century old. Others are relatively new. All help bring Durham’s agricultural traditions to life for their visitors.
With over a century in Durham, Herzig Family Tree Farm grew out of the Herzig Dairy Farm. The Swiss-born Herzig family arrived in Durham in 1906. Rosa and her sons Otto and Walter H. bought their first farm on South End Avenue. Their business quickly outgrew the property. In 1909, they moved to Maiden Lane. There, Walter H. and his son Walter O. built a thriving dairy farm. By the 1950s, farming could no longer sustain the family. They were forced to find other employment. However, they were not willing to give up the land and decided to continue farming part-time. Walter kept what animals he could and occasionally provided shelter for others’ straying pets – including a pair of burros. 
Christmas trees were first planted on the Herzig farm in 1979. Warren, Walter O.’s son, saw this new business as a way to help keep the farm viable – and to move some of the farm labor to the winter. For the first few years, the family planted on average one thousand trees a year. They harvested their first crop of their blue and white spruces in 1987. 
The farm continues to grow. While Walter O. passed away in April 2010, his son Warren and grandson Jonathan have carried on his legacy. Warren and Jonathan now run the farm together. The younger Herzigs have worked to expand the number of species they offer. They recently added their first Fraser firs, a tree known for its soft needles. The Herzig trees have also achieved local recognition. One of their blue spruces won Grand Champion at the 2011 Durham Fair.
In 2011, Herzig Farm will be open from Thanksgiving to Sunday, December 18. Their hours are one to five p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and nine a.m. to five p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Customers can choose their own spruce. Family members will cut and bail the tree. Delivery is available for a fee. The farm is located at 310 Maiden Lane, Durham. For more information, call 860-349-1275 or visit http://www.ctchristmastree.org/CandH/herzig.html.
Also on Maiden Lane, Craftsbury Christmas Farm is one of Durham’s newer arrivals. Established in the early 1980s, Craftsbury Christmas Farm is named for the town of Craftsbury, Vermont. It was started by John Patterson, a part-owner of Durham Manufacturing. He cleared five of the six acres and planted them with blue and white spruces. Patterson left Durham after two years of sales. For the last fifteen years, Craftsbury has been the project of Peter Hinman.
Hinman’s farm has changed slightly in those years. It produces more species of trees than it once did. Balsam and Fraser firs have been added to the spruces. While they are less hardy than the spruces, they are more popular as Christmas trees. In addition, Hinman has planted a few pitch pines. Native to the region, pitch pines add character to the property. The height of the trees has also shifted. Part of the first tree crop was not sold immediately. Those trees grew to upwards of fourteen feet. Craftsbury’s trees are now harvested more regularly. The average height of a tree is currently eight feet.
Craftsbury Christmas Farm welcomes customers Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. between November 25 and December 18. Customers can pick and cut their own trees. Farm staff will bale and help load the chosen tree. You may see any of three generations of the Hinman family at work. For more information, visit http://forestproductsllc.com.
While searching for your perfect tree, be sure to take a moment to ask the staff about the history of the farm. You may discover a recently started but beloved family project or a long-established tradition. Each farm will have special traditions to share. Enjoy the story. It will add a little more to your beautiful tree.
 Beth Moncata, “Board of Selectmen’s Meeting, July 23, 2009,” meeting minutes, Town of Durham (http://www.townofdurhamct.org/filestorage/28562/28826/28862/28916/07-13-09_Minutes_BOS.pdf: accessed 14 November 2011), 2-3. “Wayward Burros Spend Night at Herzig Farm,” The Harford Courant, 7 August 1957, p. 8E; online image, ProQuest Historical Newspapers (http://www.iconn.org: accessed 14 November 2011). Trisha Dyna, “Durham’s Herzig farm celebrates 100 years, trying for 100 more, Town Times, 25 September 2009, 20; online images, Issuu (http://issuu.com/towntimes/docs/9-25-2009towntimes: accessed 14 November 2011).Warren Herzig, interview by Bryna O’Sullivan, 14 November 2011; transcript privately held by O’Sullivan.
 Warren Herzig, interview by Bryna O’Sullivan, 14 November 2011; transcript privately held by O’Sullivan.
 Social Security Administration, "U.S. Social Security Death Index," database, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com: accessed 14 November 2011), entry for Walter O. Herzig, 5 April 2010. Warren Herzig, interview by Bryna O’Sullivan, 14 November 2011; transcript privately held by O’Sullivan. “Herzig Family Tree Farm,” CCTGA (http://www.ctchristmastree.org/CandH/herzig.html: accessed 17 November 2011).
 Peter Hinman, interview by Bryna O’Sullivan, 21 November 2011; transcript privately held by O’Sullivan.