Local Hero Profile: Paul Bunyan’s Farm and Nursery

By Aja Lippincott, Program Associate
Published in CISA’s December 2015 Enews – Sign Up Here!

20151112_144832“I have the best job in the whole world,” says Susan Lopes of Paul Bunyan’s Farm & Nursery in Chicopee. “Whether it’s the busy Christmas season or I’m just riding my tractor down the road taking in the beauty, I absolutely love my job.”

As one of seven children with a lot to do around the house, Susan developed a strong work ethic from a young age. She credits much of her interest in farming to her mentor Kaz Machowski, who lives next door and owns the land that Susan currently farms. Susan started her career selling vegetables at the age of 12, and then went on to earn a degree in plant sciences. In 1988, fresh out of college, Susan and Kaz started a garden center on the property. After many years of running a garden center, Susan decided to focus her attention entirely on growing the perfect Christmas tree, and eight years ago, she officially took charge of the business.

It takes a huge amount of work to run a Christmas tree farm, and Susan stays extremely busy with this year round job. The farm currently occupies 26 acres, 12 of which are Christmas trees. Come springtime, all the stumps get pulled out of the ground, the earth gets rototilled and fertilized, and then thousands of transplants get meticulously put in the ground and watered. The whole process runs from mid-March to the end of June. Susan spends countless hours mowing and keeping the fields weed free.  “I’m a perfectionist. My trees are perfect,” Susan says with pride.

All of this hard work results in an impressive expanse of firs, a variety that Susan has selected for their beauty and staying power . “They are soft and beautiful and have a nice, strong smell,” she remarks. Firs, Susan says, retain their needles for three months, compared to the three weeks that spruce trees offer. At Paul Bunyan’s you can also find an array of crafts in the gift shop including candles, ornaments, wooden figurines, greeting cards, decorative baskets, wreathes and swags; some of which are hand made by Susan and her friends. For those that like to get a head start on their holiday planning, they can show up in September when the trees are officially available for tagging.

Taking care of her customers is a part of the job that Susan genuinely loves. She gets to hear stories about peoples’ lives and their attachment to the holiday. Watching the looks on their faces as they get to take home their special tree is priceless.  And their satisfaction in making sure they get exactly what they are looking for is the highest priority.

The Christmas tree farming community all get along well. Susan was recently voted in for another few years on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Christmas Tree Association. Being surrounded by men in the group doesn’t seem to faze her at all. “They take me seriously. They are very good to me and we all help each other out a lot.”

There’s not much room for expansion at this point, since Paul Bunyan’s is operating at full capacity, but Susan continues to refine her approach to her business. “We now have our own Facebook page!” Susan says with enthusiasm. The plan for next year is to once again grow unique gourds and pumpkins, which is a new addition to the offerings at Paul Bunyan’s. “We just love growing things. We’re currently poring over catalogs and getting our seed orders in place for growing some really fun things.”

It’s the aromas of cedar, juniper and fir that lure customers in at Paul Bunyan’s and it’s the friendly and passionate staff who make their shopping experience so memorable. “I love my job. It stimulates me to be create and imaginative – two concepts that are a big part of my professional and personal life. When you combine this with the joyous season of Christmas, I’m in the perfect place!”

Stop by Paul Bunyan’s Farm & Nursery during business hours, Monday through Friday, 9-7, Saturday and Sunday, 9-6 to experience the joy of the holiday season.

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