Germany is given credit for starting the auspicious tradition of Christmas Trees; it is thought it all began sometime in the 16th century and made its way to America in the mid 1800’s practiced by the German settlers in Pennsylvania. They dressed their trees with apples, berries, cookies, popcorn, nuts and more.
The Gandini family of Portland hasn’t been growing local Christmas Trees for that long, but they have been helping families perpetuate the tradition for the past twenty plus years.
Located on 12 evergreen saturated acres, at 131 Great Hill Road, the Bald Hill Tree Farm got its name because the area was once logged so heavily it looked “bald,” explains Tim Gandini. His father, Jack Gandini and uncle, Phil Olson started the farm, which has now become a family hobby and business.
“We all have a great time here this time of year helping others get into the holiday spirit,” says Tim, a security guard at Middlesex Hospital, who grew up helping out at the farm. “We are very laid back here and very kid and pet friendly. We enjoy giving people the genuine, out in the woods experience of picking out their own Christmas tree and taking it home.”
Tim and his family help local customers and those as far away as New York and Rhode Island cut down, wrap up and load into, or onto their cars, just the right tree, or handmade decorative wreath. To add to the holiday ambiance of the experience, they also offer tractor rides to and from the chosen trees for kids and adults alike.
“This is our first year coming here for our tree, but will definitely be back,” said very satisfied customer and Portland resident Melinda Heinig. “This is a great place, the whole family had a great time and they are so nice to trim the tree for you, wrap it up and carry it to the car. It’s wonderful!”
Lining the foot paths, fenced with old stone walls, trees of all shapes and sizes can be found at Bald Hill Farm including; Douglas and Balsam Fir trees and White, Blue and Black Hill Spruce trees.
“Over the years we have experimented with all different kinds of trees and we have found that these are the main staples that people like. They make great Christmas trees, they grow well here and the deer don’t seem to eat them as much as some of the others,” explains Tim of the tree selection.
He adds, “Spruce trees are good for young kids and pets because they have sharp needles and the kids and animals won’t want to touch them and eat them. The Blue Spruce have the most fragrant pine smell if that is something you are looking for and the fir trees have softer needles. What kind of tree makes the best Christmas tree is just personal preference.”
Trees from two feet to over twenty feet can be found at the Bald Hill Tree Farm, which is open weekends 9:30 a.m. until dark, complete with a warm barn fire to sip hot chocolate by.
For those last minute tree shoppers, the farm will be open until the day before Christmas Eve.