Connections with Customers at Heart of Family-Owned Ashfield Tree Farm

The Recorder, December 11, 2016, by Miranda Davis

When Mike McCusker and Polly Anderson finished sawing down their Christmas tree, McCusker held the saw up to his nose.

The heavy scent of fresh pine from the just-cut tree was just part of the appeal for the two from Shelburne Falls, who had been coming to the Cranston Christmas Tree Farm in Ashfield for decades.

“This is really the place to be,” he said. The Cranston Farm supplies saws, marks each tree and wraps the trees in netting to make it easier to bring home without scratching doorframes.

“They really take care of you here,” he added.

The Farm was busy this weekend, something owners Thomas and Cynthia Cranston attributed to the good weather. They are the third generation of Cranstons to own the farm.

Cynthia Cranston said they get people from all over. Last weekend, they had people from nearly every town in a 30-mile radius, and she said there are always a few customers who come in from Boston every year.

The 160-acre farm is an experience. They supply carts for the trees, and have signs and areas where children can take pictures in front of Frosty the Snowman, Santa’s sleigh with reindeer, or a Christmas train.

A hike up a hill leads visitors to another field with more trees to pick from, an area the Cranstons liken to the North Pole because of the trek. Maryellen Cranston, the owners’ daughter-in-law, who spent Sunday helping customers, always promises that kids will sleep well after the hike.

Tree farms like the Cranstons’ don’t just operate during the winter season. The owners put in work on the trees for about nine months every year, with the other three dedicated to classes and meetings about tree diseases and maintenance, so the work never stops.

Cranston said those who show up from the area value their product and care about buying local.

“Local people really appreciate us and the hard work we do,” she said.

Maryellen Cranston said there really is an emotional, family-centered part of the business. She said there’s more than 32,000 trees on the farm, and the family goes through and prices and tags the trees they plan to sell before the season every year

She said she often worries if some families don’t show up by a certain time of the year. She told the story of a family that showed up a few weekends later than usual. She was so relieved to see them they all exchanged hugs.

“That, to me, is Christmas,” she said.

The Cranstons are usually so tired by the time Christmas rolls around, and interactions with repeat customers are some of the highlights of the season.

But then, there are also the new customers, too.

Families like Cathy Hyer and Andrew Ponce of Ashfield, brought their two young sons, Dante and Ronin, to the farm for the first time. They had waited until Dante was a little older to get a real tree, so this was their first real Christmas tree as a family.

“It’s my tree!” Dante said enthusiastically.

“Yes! It’s your tree,” his mother said, smiling back.

Reach Miranda Davis
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