Families Make Memories At Wonderland Tree Farm
Pine scents the air and Christmas melodies resonate from speakers along the edges of the fields. Children run and giggle. Parents debate which tree is best. Grandparents guide children around stumps to lovely, deep green trees.
In the gift shop, little ones beg for treats, and parents peruse gifts.
"We sell memories," Jill Babb says, smiling, adding that not only do she and her family hope to help families create new memories, their farm often evokes childhood memories for their customers.
"It's amazing how emotional people get here," she says, recalling seeing a lady standing looking over the fields of the trees and nearly crying. When Babb asked the lady if she was OK, she told her she was remembering pleasant memories of getting a Christmas tree when she was young.
"It brings back childhood memories," Babb says.
"I want everything -- the smells, sights, sounds, music -- to evoke beautiful memories," she says. "This is so amazing. We find more and more people are brought to tears."
"It's like going through the wardrobe to Narnia and being transported back in time. ... people are mesmerized by that."
The farm, east of Pea Ridge on Lee Town Road, is accessed off Miser Road. There are nearly 30 acres of trees -- Virginia pine with long soft needles easy for children to decorate; Scotch pine with short, sharp needles; and Leyland cypress. There are also cut Frasier firs from a "mom and pop" farm in North Carolina. Babb says she wasn't happy with the Frasier firs from last year's supplier and found a new supplier.
"They are so particular about their trees," Babb says of this year's Frasier fir farm owners. "They don't cut them until it's time to ship. They are premium grade, that's higher than No. 1. It's the best grade tree you can get. They were very hydrated when they arrived."
The Babbs began planting the tree fields in 2009 and opened in 2015.
"We've added a wreath barn and are making our own wreaths and arrangements here on property using greenery from the farm. We even have a vintage line, using old pots, gravy boats, tea cups, etc., to make our arrangements," Babb says.
In addition to the gift shop and wreath barn, there are two vendor trailers -- one selling coffee and tea and another selling kettle corn.
In the gift shop, there are Christmas ornaments, decorations and stocking stuffers, infant outfits, sugar cookies and pet treats. New this year are personalized tree ornaments, both bulb and disc, with the name of the tree farm, and Wonderland T-shirts.
There is even a complimentary old-fashioned tractor-pulled hayride that will transport customers into the tree fields.
Prices start at $42.99 for a 5- to 6-foot tree and increase by $10 up to the 8- to 9-foot trees that are $88.99. The Babbs offer a military discount of 10 percent on choose-and-cut trees.
There are thousands of trees; Babb says she put out 4,000 tree tags. There were 2,250 trees sold for the 2017 Christmas season. Customers come not only from Benton and Washington counties but from as far away as Fort Smith, Oklahoma and Springfield, Mo.
"We're the largest tree farm in Northwest Arkansas," Babb says, adding that last year someone from the state of Nevada drove over to buy a tree. "They says they found us online and just took a road trip to come get their tree."
As for which tree is the most aromatic, she says that's a personal preference but recommends crushing a couple of needles between fingers in order to discover the essence of the tree's scent.
"Everyone has their idea of what the perfect Christmas tree is," she says. "People are pretty type specific."
Near the tree corrals, there is a red 1953 Chevy and a red sleigh where families pose for pictures. Next year, there will be a camper with vintage chairs out as well.
"I want everything to be real things but cool photo ops," she says.
There are now 22 employees at the farm and many of them are family members. The Babbs have four children and 16 grandchildren including sons Jonathan and Lori and their seven children; son Stephen and Jennifer and their four children; son Ryan and Heidi and their four children; and daughter Kristen and her husband William Wessels and their son.
The third generation enjoys helping Nana and Papa, and Jill says she enjoys teaching them about the business.
"Peyton (a grandson) helped tag trees. They like to greet people. We're teaching them the ways of it. This will all be theirs one day," she says.
Wonderland Christmas Tree Farm
WHEN — 2 p.m. until dark Tuesday-Friday; 9 a.m. until dark Saturday; noon until dark Sunday; last day Dec. 22
WHERE — 14821 Miser Road in Pea Ridge
COST — Trees are $42.99 & up
INFO — 212-2964, wonderlandtreefarm.com