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Oh, Christmas trees: The story of a family farm

Field workers Greg Schlaak and Dale Newfield use stilts to reach the tops of trees that need shaping.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Arthur Loewen says that growing up on a farm in Abbotsford in the 1950s, and the shared sense of responsibility it created, is what spurred him to found Pine Meadows Tree Farms more than four decades ago.

"I remember sitting in the chicken barn with my dad and just discussing life and important issues, and that was important to us," the 74-year-old says.

Having had a taste of how working the land could bring family together, Mr. Loewen set out to raise his children on a farm as well. He purchased more than three hectares in Chilliwack in 1970, and at the recommendation of neighbours began growing Christmas trees. At the time a Hatzic Secondary School math teacher, Mr. Loewen believed working the land would keep the family close.

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"The fact they didn't have to go looking for jobs in high school meant they'd work at home," he says. "We got to interact a lot more."

Today his entire family still works at the farm, which has grown to more than 60 hectares and sells about 10,000 Christmas trees every winter.

Christmas trees make up 35 per cent of the 400,000 trees on the farm; other varieties are grown for landscaping throughout the year. The farm grows eight species of holiday lumber, the Douglas fir being the most popular.

Mr. Loewen's three sons and daughter, all in their 30s and 40s, live in the same neighbourhood and are employed to take care of the property, which is one of the largest tree farms in the Lower Mainland. Another generation of Loewens also work the land: Mr. Loewen has eight grandchildren.

His son Tim now owns the farm and he's bracing for the Christmas rush. "It's hard," he says, "but the bright spot is getting it done."

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