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tree farms getting ready for holiday

Monday, November 13, 2017 17:06 PM
Written by Stan Maddux
Category: Local News

A Christmas tree farm in LaPorte County has started bracing for the traditional onslaught of customers that start pouring in after Thanksgiving.

Work started over the weekend on making by hand the 500 wreaths sold every year at Dudeck's Pine Country at 9255 N. 300 East.

The wreaths are made from the lower branches on some of the 70,000 or so trees on the 80 acre farm in the rolling hills near Hesston, said Greg Dudeck, a third generator operator of the farm.

His wife, Rhonda, and their daughter, Courtney, assemble most of the wreaths from branches clipped and hauled in primarily by students at New Prairie High School paid for their services.

''The gals really enjoy making a nice product,'' said Dudeck.

The wreaths along with garland also made by hand at the farm are sold in the gift shop open strictly during the holiday season.

Dudeck said work also just started on pricing all of the ornaments, decorations, crafts and other items for sale in the gift shop and getting the building used for storage during the off-season cleaned out and decked in full holiday splendor

''We're open for about five weeks to make everything happen,'' Dudeck said.

The gift shop features a snack bar offering things like hot dogs, cookies and hot apple cider.

Dudeck said the ''secret formula'' for the cider is already mixed up so it's boiling for the first customer walking through the doors.

''We just keep a couple of pots brewing everyday so it's fresh. That's what we do,'' said Dudeck.

Next week, some of the 800 pre-cut trees sold on average during the holiday will start getting brought in from the fields.

Most of the 3,500 or so trees sold every season at the farm wind up in the hands of customers taken out in wagons to cut the ones they want to bring home.

There's also work in making sure tractors pulling some of the wagons and other equipment like bailers that bundle up each tree destined for a new home are in tip top operating condition.

Arrangements also have to be made to bring in horses kept at a farm near Pinhook to pull the remainder of the wagons.

Santa's house occupied by Santa for his visits with the children there for a tree also needs decorating before Thanksgiving and work started almost a month ago getting the grounds and parking area more presentable.

Dudeck is also in the middle of lining up the 25 or so workers needed on weekends and the four or five helpers required the rest of the week to handle the influx.

Ray Dudeck and his brother, Milton, started the farm raising strictly peaches in 1939.

The switch to evergreens occurred in 1960 after a major freeze destroyed the crop and started a decline in the health of the peach trees.

''They froze out,'' said Wayne Dudeck, a second generation owner of the farm.

He said mostly scotch trees from the farm were first offered at the old B & K Root Beer stand in Michigan City and Al's Supermarket in LaPorte then later people were invited to come and cut their own.

The farm also became a supplier of evergreens to landscapers during the remainder of the year and still is today.

Wayne is pretty much retired from the business nowadays while his son, Greg, and grandson, Brandon, handle much of the responsibilities.

His seven-year old great granddaughter, Peyton, also pitches in with things

like the wreath making.

''We just need customers to show up the day after Thanksgiving,'' said Greg Dudeck.