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For the love of Christmas trees

Doug Ramsay photo

Bill Campbell stands amongst the pre-cut Christmas trees at Wintergreen Tree Farm in Machias, where he now is the manager. He grew up in the business at his family’s tree farm off of Springhetti Road.

SNOHOMISH — It’s all about families and memories.
And trees.
Bill Campbell remembers planting his first tree with his dad at the Campbell Tree Farm outside of Snohomish when he was nine.
That was 50 years ago.
Recently, he relived the memory with a wash of emotions as he watched his new employer, Nolan Perkl, plant a seedling with his nine-year-old son, Tripper.
It all looked so familiar.
Perkl purchased the Wintergreen Tree Farm in Machias this past  summer and hired Campbell as his general manager.
Time has passed, but there are some of the same goals: Grow Christmas trees and help families create great memories.
Campbell said he feels “blessed” to see a family cut a tree for Christmas after he’s taken care of it — planting, pruning, nurturing and fertilizing it. “You get to kind of know the tree,” he said.
Watching a family make a memory is gratifying: “I can’t think of anything more rewarding than that,” he said.
The Perkls are “a very nice family,” Campbell said on a foggy December morning at the Wintergreen farm. “They are utilizing my experience.”
Campbell’s great-grandfather was a homesteader in the Snohomish River valley and their land on Springhetti Road had been in his family for over 100 years, he said.  In 1967, his dad decided to start a tree farm and Campbell helped him. The work turned into part of his FFA (Future Famers of America) project at Snohomish High School.
The Campbell Tree Farm was “a very fun operation,” he said. But when his parents passed away a few years ago, things changed. The farm eventually sold in 2008.
Now, he’s happy to be back in the business helping the Perkls.      “They are very committed to making (Wintergreen) a destination Christmas tree farm,” Campbell said.
A blazing fire pit may greet patrons when they arrive at the farm, and they can browse in a cozy gift shop containing local crafts, handmade soaps and candles, ornaments and wreaths. On weekends, Tim Noah from Thumbnail Theater performs three shows per day and Santa Claus visits from 10-3 on Saturdays.
Campbell is proud that the tree farm has received overwhelmingly positive responses on social media.
In addition to Nolan Perkl and his wife Brandy, Perkl’s parents, Jerry and Theresa Perkl, are involved in the business, too.
“We want to provide family entertainment,” said Jerry Perkl, sitting on a chair in Campbell’s knotty pine office. The Perkls want people to remember good times at the farm and come back, he said. They hope to expand the business to include a greenhouse and nursery in the near future.
Campbell said the farm managers want to be good stewards of the land—11 acres in all—and good stewards for the community.
Although the number of U-cut trees available this Christmas season was “lean,” the new owners planted 5,000 seedlings in the fall that should be ready for harvesting in four or five years. Meanwhile, they’ve brought in pre-cut trees to sell so that families can get used to shopping at the farm.
For the community, Wintergreen provided the 35-foot Christmas tree for historic downtown Snohomish, and recently sponsored a raffle to raise money for a young cancer patient’s medical expenses. The prize was a huge wreath Nolan made. The Perkls plan to donate matching funds to the Seattle Children’s Hospital Uncompensated Care Fund from their businesses.
“We like to give back to the community,” Campbell said.
Campbell and the Perkls have what might be called a symbiotic relationship: They help each other.
“If it wasn’t for Bill, this year wouldn’t have happened,” said Nolan Perkl.
“What a blessing it is to be back in the business” with people committed to making a really nice place, Campbell said.


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