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Sharing tradition with the community

Bay View Tree Farm is sprucing up for sixth season of business

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November 28, 2023

LUXEMBURG – The Christmas spirit is already in full swing at Bay View Tree Farm in Luxemburg.

For Cindy and Shawn McDonough, what started as a family tradition of going to pick and cut their own trees every year, transformed into a family business.

“When Shawn and I first got married, we started going to a choose-and-cut tree farm, different ones, and enjoyed the tradition we started,” Cindy said. 

About five years before they took over Tillman’s Tree Farm (which happened in 2017) and renamed the business Bay View Tree Farm, Cindy said their family tradition turned into a bigger interest for Shawn.

“I was just calling other (Christmas tree) growers throughout the state and asking them questions,” Shawn said. “I found out they have an association called the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association. They have two conventions a year, and so I attended a couple of those.”

After spending numerous hours researching, the now owners of Bay View Tree Farm said they knew they wanted to start their own tree farm business, which meant – you guessed it – more research. 

“(We spent) a lot of time researching the whole aspect of starting your own business, starting an LLC,” Shawn said. “And then we kind of fell into an opportunity with Tillman’s Tree Farm… Ron Tillman had this Christmas tree farm, and he was looking to get out of it, and so we ended up taking over that farm.”

Changes on the tree farm
When the McDonoughs took over the tree farm six years ago, Cindy said the name wasn’t the only change with the business.

“The first thing we did was (build) a warming shelter at the time – (though) we’re no longer using it as a warming shelter – we built a log cabin,” Cindy said. “We added a Porta Potty because there weren’t any bathroom facilities out there. We’ve also added a wreath shed.”

In addition to buildings, a restroom and a bonfire, Cindy said the pair also decided to add additional activities to the Christmas tree-cutting experience, such as bringing Santa out to the farm for the first two weeks of the season, offering free hot chocolate and providing tractor wagon rides. 

Shawn said sparked by their own experience in choosing and cutting trees every year, the family decided to invest in other equipment that benefits the customer.

“(We have) a tree shaker,” he said. “We have a tree bailor, so we wrap up our trees if they choose.”

Bay View Tree Farm also offers answer stands – a McDonough family favorite – that involves drilling a hole in the bottom of the tree stump and standing it up on a peg.

Bay View Tree Farm opened in 2017 after Cindy and Shawn McDonough took over Tillman’s Tree Farm in Luxemburg. Photo Courtesy of Bay View Tree Farm

“You have to buy a special drill that drills the bottom of the stump,” Shawn said. “(The tree) stands straight every time, so I’ve never heard a complaint about it – people love it. And it’s so easy to bring your tree into your house and set it on the stand.”

Fir, pine, spruce – a variety of options
Shawn and Cindy said they’ve had their fair share of different Christmas trees over the years – whether that be their choice or the picks of their two sons.

The pair said they knew they would want a variety of trees for their customers to choose from as well.

“We grow balsam fir, Fraser fir, Scots pine, Meyer spruce and white pine,” he said. “You can talk to other growers to see what the latest trend is in the type of tree… You look at the characteristics of the tree, needle retention and the fragrance. You get a feel for what customers want from just doing this for several years.”

A tree species that took Shawn by surprise this year, he said, was the Meyer spruce.

“Spruces are typically not great for needle retention,” he said. “And we found (Meyer spruce), it looks like a Colorado blue spruce. The needle retention is excellent.”

Out of all the Christmas tree options, Cindy and Shawn said their favorite is the balsam fir.

“Balsam fir is native to Wisconsin,” Shawn said. “A balsam fir is similar to a Fraser fir in the sense it holds its needles just as well, and the fragrance is excellent.”

Bay View gets the majority of its trees – which at the time are seedlings – from Downey Nursery in Quebec, but Shawn said some trees also come from Niagra, Wisconsin and lower Michigan.

“They’re probably about 16 inches (when they come),” he said. “They spend three years in a seed bed, and then two years in a managed field at that nursery, and then they pull them and they come to our farm. They grow on our farm for about seven to nine years I would say, depending on the soil condition.”

Providing joy, memories
Now that the McDonoughs provide the opportunity for other families to partake in their own traditions of picking out a tree at the farm, Cindy said the main focus of the business is to “try to create these lasting memories for other people.”

“We always talk about (how) when you’re on the farm, everyone’s happy,” she said. “Who’s not happy when they’re celebrating Christmas, getting ready for the holidays and looking for a tree? So, it’s just such a great environment to be in.”

Working the tree farm – which is open from the Friday after Thanksgiving until Christmas – is a family ordeal, which Cindy said adds to the intimacy of Bay View.

“Our boys help out as well,” she said. “They’ll hand out saws and they’ll hand out maps. Our younger son – you can find him anywhere on the farm handing out candy canes.”

Many customers return each year, Shawn said, which adds to the warm, family feel he said sets Bay View apart from other tree farms.

“It’s cool from our end to see these people,” he said. “You see them once a year, but now you know who they are, and that’s kind of cool.”

Some people even make an entire day out of visiting the tree farm.

“Every year, there’s been a family that has, I would say, eight to 10 vehicles that come in, and they make a whole day out of it,” Shawn said. “They tailgate, they hang around the bonfire and they have s’mores. It’s really cool.”

Cindy said they are content with the size of the Bay View and have no plans to expand the business into a more commercial-sized farm.

“For me, it’s that small family feel,” she said. “Our boys are out there… Shawn’s dad is out there as one of the welcomers… It’s pretty fun out there.”

Off-season prep
Though the familiar faces come and go and the holidays come to a close each year, the McDonoughs said that doesn’t mean their work stops there.

In fact, Shawn said it’s far from it.

“It’s a heavy workload,” he said. “Off-season, we’re maintaining equipment, just making sure everything’s ready to go for the (next) season.”


The McDonoughs said Bay View’s intimate, small family feel sets the tree farm apart from others in the area. Photo Courtesy of Bay View Tree Farm

The tree farming season, Shawn said, typically starts in April – which includes fertilizing, cutting down stumps, interplanting (planting a new tree in between two stumps) or pulling all the stumps in a field and planting a cover crop, such as white clover, and planting all new trees.

And, though some may say pine cones are great as Christmas decorations, they aren’t great for tree growing, which Shawn said means each May Bay View has the tedious task of removing every pinecone on the Christmas trees.

“You want to pick them when they’re smaller – it’s a lot easier – but some have 100 pine cones,” he said. “If you let those grow, all that energy goes to the pine cone and not the tree. So you have to get them off of there… your needles aren’t growing in that place where all those pine cones are, so there’s a lot of spacing.”

Summer duties, Shawn said, involve mowing and shearing the trees.

“(Shearing) promotes bud growth, which thickens up the tree,” he said. “Not every tree gets sheared, we do some trees just to grow kind of wild, (since) some people like that… That’s a huge job in July.”

Furry and flying visitors
One of the joys of owning a tree farm, the McDonoughs said, is getting to see the wildlife that visit each spring.

“Christmas trees provide excellent nesting areas for birds,” Shawn said. “It’s crazy loud when you’re out there in the spring picking pine cones or planting. It’s really neat to hear all the birds in the trees.”

A common four-legged friend in Wisconsin – deer – also likes to visit Bay View, though that, Shawn said, can be a “double-edged sword.”

“(The farm) provides a bedding area for the deer,” he said. “(But), we’ve lost a lot of Christmas trees due to deer eating the new growth and the buds. They’re eating the clover and then they see the buds and they’ll eat that too. Not every tree, but there’s a substantial amount of loss you’ve got to deal with.”

To keep up with the happenings on Bay View Tree Farm – such as the McDonough’s sons cutting down a tree they planted in 2018 – visit the farm’s Facebook page.

Specifics on hours of operation and directions to the tree farm can be found at

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