Two retired educators have been spinning their own type of holiday magic to a growing number of south central Indiana families for the past quarter-century.

Three reasons explain why the Tower Family Christmas Tree Farm, near the Lowell Bridge fishing site northwest of Columbus, has successfully reached its 25th anniversary, owners Ed and Cathy Tower said.

Memories, tradition and in Cathy Tower’s words, “Oooh, that aroma!”

Bringing the fragrance of a fresh balsam or fir into their home is what brought Jim Newell and his wife, Barbara, to the farm Friday with their four grandchildren.

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Having had an artificial tree for a couple of years, “a real one just looks so much better,” Jim Newell said.

Customers from far and wide apparently agree.

The Towers have seen the popularity of their business at 4416 W. Lowell Road branch out to buyers who reside well outside the south central Indiana region.

“It’s something we never dreamed would happen,” Cathy Tower said.

“It’s gotten crazy” said Ed Tower as almost two dozen customers — including many children — waited in line after school let out Friday afternoon.

Their Christmas tree business is growing.

“At first, we probably sold less than 100 trees the entire year. Now, there have been several times this year when we’ve sold more than a hundred — in just one day.”

Friday’s rush was nothing compared to the day after Thanksgiving, when there was “a line of folks wrapped around the barn” at the choose-and-cut farm, his wife said.

That might surprise artificial tree owners who don’t want the annual expense, the inconvenience of daily watering, or the necessity of picking up needles off floors and presents.

But from the perspective of 12-year-old Luke Schneider, each tree is unique in its own way, and discovering that perfect tree is a great way to make memories.

“You get out there and look at many trees until you find the right one. Then, you cut it down and bring it back on a sleigh (a white canvas with attached rope). It’s a family tradition we do on the exact same day every year,” the Northside Middle School student said.

His 10-year-old brother, Brady Schneider, had a different observation.

“When kids play around with fake trees, they just fall down,” he said.

A retired Columbus East High School math and science teacher, Ed Tower began planting trees in 1984 as a hobby that his whole family could engage in. Cathy Tower is also retired after a career as a math teacher at the middle school and adult-education levels.

Although the Tower children have long been adults, they still remain engaged with the farm to this day. Although he now resides in Dubois County, the Towers’ son, Jason, brings his family to help out on weekends.

Daughter Jeanette, who lives near Louisville, regularly recruits her family to pitch in as well during peak times.

In fact, other relatives and friends have been known to travel from as far away as Utah and South Carolina to lend a hand.

But in addition to loyalty, there’s a bigger reason why so many people travel great distances to get to the Tower Family Christmas Tree Farm. It’s called ambiance.

Tucked away at the end of a half-mile gravel road, the five acres of spruce, balsam and pine Christmas trees are surrounded by more than 30 more acres of beautiful and larger trees, as well as lush and rolling terrain on the scenic banks of the Flat Rock River.

Once kids get there, many of them don’t want to leave the almost fairy tale landscape — as a number of adults discovered Friday after securing their trees to their vehicles.

“This location instills a special feeling, especially in kids — but adults as well,” said Luke and Brady’s grandfather, Larry Schneider.

To be honest, there is one criticism that Ed Tower has heard from relatives, including two cousins who got into growing Christmas trees for profit long before he did.

With prices ranging from $25 for a small pine tree to $120 for a tall, precut Fraser Fir shipped in from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, the Towers have occasionally been told they are not charging enough for their products.

But making big bucks wasn’t the fulfillment Ed and Cathy Tower were seeking in their retirement years.

“What Cathy and I think is important is that we can be part of Christmas for so many families,” Ed Tower said.

Their fulfillment comes from watching happy kids together with loving adults as they establish traditions that may well be handed down to future generations, he said.

Advantages of buying a fresh Christmas tree

  1. Choosing your own tree can become a memorable family tradition.
  2. “Real Trees Make Scents!” (sign at the entrance to the Tower farm)
  3. Almost all real trees sold locally are grown by U.S. farmers, which helps employ more than 100,000 workers.
  4. Real trees are a renewable resource that helps keep the air clean and provide sheltered habitat for wildlife.
  5. Unlike artificial trees, real trees can be recycled.

Source: Money Crashers.com

Tips on choosing the right tree

  1. Check the trunk of the tree for size and straightness before you cut.
  2. Use a tree shaker and blowers to remove all the old needles before bringing the tree into your home.
  3. Keep your freshly cut tree in water.  Research shows that plain water is best for your Christmas tree.
  4. A fresh-cut begins to seal in about 15 minutes, so it is important to never let your tree run out of water.
  5. While popular, Norway Spruce trees will not retain their needles as well as a Balsam tree. Two weeks or less indoors is recommended for the Norway Spruce.
  6. Smaller branches on White Pine trees won’t hold heavier ornaments and decorations.

Source: Tower Family Christmas Tree Farm

Local tree farms

Tower Family Christmas Tree Farm, 4416 W. Lowell Road, Columbus: 812-378-3505. Open weekdays 1-5 p.m. and weekends 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Hackman Christmas Tree Farm, 12076 W. County Road 50S, Columbus: 812-342-6797. Open weekends, 9 a.m. until dark on Saturdays, noon to dark on Sundays.

Romine Tree Farm, 16747 Huffer Road, Hope: 812-546-5587. Open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.