WEST MILFORD, N.J. -- Allison Hosford, owner of Bear Swamp Farm in West Milford, loves this time of year -- despite the fact that she works practically non-stop until just before Christmas.
That's because she and her husband, Roger Knight, raise turkeys at their organic farm, Two Pond Farm , to sell for Thanksgiving. Hosford also custom makes pies with 60-year-old pumpkin seeds she lovingly curates from the soil. With Thanksgiving over, she's readying her family's adjoining tree farm for the Christmas buying season. It all began Saturday, Nov. 28.
Bear Swamp Farm has been offering cut-your-own evergreens for more than 50 years, ever since Hosford's grandparents bought the farmland and started growing trees.
They did it to protect the land, said Hosford, who has continued the tradition by buying the adjacent property (Two Pond) and growing pesticide-free vegetables, along with raising pigs, lamb, chickens and sheep.
Bear Swamp is only open six days beginning, but it's a busy six days with Hosford and Knight on their feet practically from dusk to dawn.
"I love it," said Hosford. "I get to see people I only see once a year -- we have three generations coming here now -- plus everyone is just in a happy mood."
It's also, she said, a place where memories are made.
"I remember myself and my siblings planting the first trees," she said. "Now, there are 13 of us and they all come to help."
Trees, many people may be surprised to know, are planted every spring -- between 500 to 1,000 – and take about 12 years to grow to six feet and higher.
Cut-your-own options include Blue Spruce, White Spruce, Balsam Fir, White Pine and Scotch Pine.
The farm has evolved over the years and also carries pre-cut trees from Pennsylvania that Hosford said are "gorgeous." "We get 65 of their trees to supplement our own," she said.
There's also a homey Christmas tree shop in the farm's barn where visitors can find handmade crafts, many made by Hosford's friends and family. She herself is a knitter (along with a watercolorist), using wool from the sheep she raises at Two Pond. Guests will also find handmade pottery, Christmas ornaments and other one-of-a-kind items.
And, befitting such a homey place, hot chocolate is also part of the experience.
Bear Swamp Farm is located at 81 Otterhole Road, West Milford, (973) 697-2541 , www.bearswampfarmnj.com.
It's open Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. until the trees sell out.
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