Richardsons of Spring Grove get 'hokey' in national promotion of real Christmas trees

Brothers George and Robert Richardson serenade a tree on their family's Spring Grove farm with "O Christmas Tree" as part of a video distributed nationally. The social media campaign encourages people to use real Christmas trees instead of artificial ones this holiday season.
Brothers George and Robert Richardson serenade a tree on their family's Spring Grove farm with "O Christmas Tree" as part of a video distributed nationally. The social media campaign encourages people to use real Christmas trees instead of artificial ones this holiday season.

Chosen to take part in a national “Keep It Real” campaign promoting Christmas tree farmers, the Richardsons of Spring Grove definitely kept it real.

“Maybe a little too real,” as Carol Richardson jokingly put it in a video featuring the family’s farm, one of only six farms picked throughout the country to be part of the promotion. The video has been distributed nationally through a social media campaign encouraging people to use real Christmas trees instead of artificial ones this holiday season.

Dressed in what George Richardson described as “hokey” red and white tracksuits, he and his brother, Robert, are “The Tree Whisperers” in the video.

They give their potential Christmas trees ornament training sessions, serenade them with “O Christmas Tree,” read them “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas” and lead them in a yoga session.

“Reach toward the sky,” they tell their trees. “Feel your branches.”

Owners of Richardson Adventure Farm – – the family submitted a sort of audition video to the Christmas Tree Promotion Board, a group representing tree growers and sellers throughout the country, to be part of its 2017 campaign, “It’s Christmas. Keep It Real.” – and on Facebook at

The board basically did a casting call, said Marsha Gray, director of communications and programs for the board.

“We wanted to feature real growers doing what they do,” she said. “We really felt that would resonate with people. ...

“The ad agency felt like they had the right sparkle,” she said of the Richardsons.

Along with videos on the Facebook page and website, the campaign includes the airing of three 15-second clips of the videos this week on the Hallmark Channel. Those videos mainly include footage of all the farmers featured edited together, Gray said.

“I am sure there will be some clip of the Richardsons [on the Hallmark Channel],” she said.

While some of the families’ videos were a bit more straightforward, the Richardsons decided to have a bit of fun with theirs.

“I like to ham it up now and then,” George Richardson said.

When a video crew came to film in Spring Grove, the production company hired to create the campaign thought “these guys like to have fun,” he said, and suggested the tracksuits and some other video clips.

“They came out for two days of video shoots with the whole family,” George Richardson said. “We really didn’t know what the end product would be. …

“I got tears in my eyes laughing at this.”

The video already has been posted on the “It’s Christmas. Keep it Real.” Facebook page, along with others emphasizing the benefits of using real trees instead of fake ones.

Christmas trees are like any crop farmers grow. Once cut down, more seedlings are planted, with the Richardsons planting about 10,000 Christmas tree seedlings last year. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Dec. 23, the Christmas tree farm has about 90,000 trees growing and will sell more than 7,000 this season, George Richardson said.

Also known for its “world’s largest corn maze” and adventure farm, the Richardson farm first began selling Christmas trees in 1986 after planting about 1,000 trees in 1981 as a side hobby. Before then, it was all about pig production for the family.

The Richardsons sold 181 trees that first season, with a single sign along the road pointing buyers in the right direction

They gave away hot chocolate and coffee and, “It was grand fun,” George Richardson farm. The family soon realized they loved the Christmas tree business, he said, and expanded it from there, offering wagon rides and selling doughnuts and kettle corn, along with wreaths, garlands and decorations.

The farm now is run by two generations of Richardsons, with additional family members helping out during the busy holiday season. It’s all about offering an experience.

As the campaign promotes, “Years from now, which will you remember more warmly: assembling a plastic tree pulled out of the attic, or bringing home and decorating a real tree that you enjoyed selecting with friends and family? Everything from the scent to the search simply cannot be manufactured.”

Along with the holiday tradition created when families pick their own trees, the use of real trees is better for the environment with artificial trees having three times more impact on climate change and resource depletion than a natural tree, the campaign stresses.

Real Christmas trees are biodegradable and can be recycled or reused for mulch.

“It’s not like the artificial trees that will end up in a landfill,” said George Richardson, whose favorite tree is the Canaan fir, a sort of close cousin to the Fraser fir. Somewhat unique to the Midwest, the Canaans hold their needles well and are beautiful trees, he said.

The Richardsons also sell Scotch, spruce and Fraser, white pine and Concolor fir, the only tree that doesn’t aggravate the allergies of Carol Richardson, Robert’s wife, also featured in the national video.

Unique to the Midwest, the Concolor has soft, fleshy needles, similar to a blue spruce, and are fragrant, George Richardson said.

He has yet to pick this year’s family tree – and, yes, all of the Richardsons use real trees.

“We’ll kind of go out without a particular tree in mind and choose,” he said. “My wife and I will find a nice, quiet day.”

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