By Linda Dillman
Imagine a farm where you work hard all year, but your selling season lasts less than a month and you have the labor of love operated by tree farmers Cecil and Melissa Rapp.
The couple started their Bedford Falls Christmas Tree Farm in 2014 after purchasing a dilapidated, but historic house more than 10 years ago, along with acres of land in Lockbourne nestled along a railroad line. They came upon the abandoned farmhouse one day while out for a Sunday drive and fell in love with it and the location.
“We purchased the abandoned farmhouse and land in 2003 with hopes to save the historic 1848 home,” said Melissa Rapp, “and it is still a work in progress. We always dreamed of living on a nice piece of land and wanted to do something with it. My husband had built commercial sprayers for the landscape industry and when visiting his customers that had tree farms, it was always interesting. We love the fact that we can do something with the land that helps families make memories.”
While it took a year to just coax the brick home into a habitable state, the couple started clearing brush and trees from the fields and planting fir and pine seedlings with hopes of opening a viable tree farm in the future.
In 2020, their dream was realized when they opened their doors for the first time to holiday memory makers the day after Thanksgiving.
“We planted our first crop in 2014, and continue to plant every spring,” said Rapp. “We purchase 4,000 to 5,000 seedlings each spring. That sounds like a lot, but there is some loss with each crop that we have to plan on over the course of the seven years or so that they grow before harvest.”
The couple plant a variety of trees in each field—White Pine, Fraser Fir, Canaan Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce and Concolor Fir—and the work is a lot harder than they imagined.
“People may think that we only work one month a year during the Christmas season, but oh no,” she said.
There is field preparation and planting in the spring, field mowing from April to November, shaping and shearing trees starting around the third year of growth, pest control—sometimes by hand, weed control and machinery maintenance.
All accomplished by the couple alone under the watchful eye of their Great Dane, George.
Then there are the behind-the-scenes activities such as bookkeeping, retail shop purchases, marketing and planning for everything to ensure a memorable holiday experience for guests.
The Bedford Falls Christmas Tree Farm—yes, the name celebrates the magic of the fictional town in the classic holiday film, “It’s a Wonderful Life”—opens the day after Thanksgiving and closes for the season this year on Dec.19. Their regular hours are 11a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sundays and the farm is located at 7258 Lockbourne Road.
“We supply saws for families to go into our field to cut their own tree, we shake them, net them and help load the trees on the cars,” said Rapp. “We also have precut trees available for folks that prefer a ready-to-go tree.”
A complementary cup of cocoa and a Christmas cookie awaits guests and this year the Rapps teamed up with R & B Canned Goods—a local family business based in Obetz—to offer vintage inspired treats in keeping with the nostalgic “It’s A Wonderful Life” theme.
Santa Claus will visit the farm on Dec. 4 from noon to 2 p.m. and a professional photographer is available the first two Sundays of the season to go out in the field and capture tree cutting memories for families.