When Alma and Jerry Belcher started selling Christmas trees from their property in 1997, it began as a simple retirement project. With each new year, however, the 16-acre farm began to attract more customers to the gravel road on Ark Way, about a mile off of exit 14 on I-77.
Since then, the Plateau Tree Farm has flourished into one of Mercer County’s most beloved holiday traditions for visitors and residents alike. The farm is home to more than 10,000 Douglas Firs and White Pines, Alma says, and business keeps getting better.
At Plateau, each customer’s experience is intimate as they choose their own tree, cut it down and haul it home.
“We’re just a family operated tree farm, and we just do families; we don’t do any wholesale,” Alma says. “Families come on site, and they bring their kids. A lot of times, they come in early November when it’s a pretty day, and we give them a ticket, and they can mark their tree and take pictures.”
Once trees are marked, the wait begins. In order to keep the trees fresh for the holiday season, Alma says they don’t begin selling until the day after Thanksgiving.
“It makes us excited – very excited – to know they have a fresh tree,” Alma says. “I’ve never had an artificial tree, so that’s what I like most about it. Sometimes they bring me back pictures of their trees if they decorate it.”
Each tree takes about seven to 10 years to grow, and each pine and fir is trimmed and shaped by the Belcher family.
“Our white pines, the long needle, is $20 for any size,” she says. “The firs are all $25 any height, any size. We’ve had the same price for several years, and we just keep it that way. If they can’t afford a tree, we give them a tree. We give churches trees too.”
When families visit, children get one of Alma’s famous chocolate holiday suckers.
“They’ll come running in the house to get a sucker before they get their tree and we laugh,” Alma says. “The kids really enjoy those in white and dark chocolates, and they’re shaped like deer and Santa Clauses. The kids look forward to that.”
For Alma, who retired after 44 years of teaching, seeing each child’s excitement over a live tree is the highlight of each season.
“One little boy has been coming for years, and he’s about 12 now. He got to saw down the tree this year, and he was so excited,” Alma says. “I love to listen to them tell about their tree and everything. We usually sell a couple hundred, and it’s just fun.”
Tthe Belchers sold more trees than ever, which Alma attributes to earlier sales and an influx of young people preferring the trees’ natural look over artificial.
With the farm being close to Pipestem Resort State Park, a good deal of business also comes from those visiting during the holiday season. For customers who may have longer commutes home, the Belchers provide preservation tablets to keep the trees fresh.
“At the end, it’s really rewarding to see everybody being so positive and everything,” Alma says about the holiday spirit. “We really enjoy it.”
As the season winds down, Alma says she hopes the trees can bring their customers joy and ultimately give them a holly, jolly holiday season.
This post was last updated on December 12, 2019