Sunbrite Christmas Tree Farm Makes Holiday Memories
Choosing a tree at Sunbrite has become a tradition for many area families.
Sunbrite Christmas Tree Farm, just a mile north of Lake Saint Louis on Guthrie Rd., has been in the business of growing and selling Christmas trees — and making family holiday memories — for 26 years. The annual trip to hike the paths along the lake, through the woods and up and down the tree-dotted hillsides to select and cut down a Christmas tree has become a holiday tradition for many families.
Owner Ralph Lindner, 74, purchased the 70-acre property in 1972. He began planting Christmas trees in 1980. Lindner first offered the same trees being grown at other Missouri tree farms: Scotch Pines, White Pines, White, Blue and Norway Spruces.
"Scotch Pines can get seventeen different diseases," Lindner said. "You can spend all year taking care of Scotch Pines," he said, explaining that the trees required chemical fertilizers and spraying. Sunbrite is unusual in that it offers Balsam firs.
"Balsams take care of themselves," Lindner said. The Balsam, or Canaan, fir is not normally grown in Missouri. The trees don't do well in landscaped yards. At Sunbrite, the trees are allowed to grow in a natural state with other vegetation that helps the trees retain moisture.
The Canaan firs take their name from the original seed source — Canaan Valley, West Virginia. The seedlings then grow in pots for a year in Holland, Michigan. Lindner and his son Paul Morrison, 44, take turns making the trip to bring the new Canaan Fir seedlings to Missouri. Morrison takes a truck for the trip, but Lindner takes all but the driver's seat out of his Mercury and fills the cab and trunk with seedlings.
Lindner and Morrison live on the tree farm with their families, and tree farm customers have even cut the trees right out of their yard. Lindner is philosophical about it. "We can grow more," he said.
Sunbrite supplies customers with saws and four-wheeled hand carts to help transport the trees back to the sales area.
Bill and Cindy Clausen of Wright City watched their tree going through a machine that secures the branches for the trip home. As Bill loaded the tree in their car, Cindy said, "We've been coming here for years. It's the only way to do it. It makes our Christmas."
Sharon and Bill Macy of St. Charles, wearing matching Santa hats, wandered a hillside with their dog Kodiak. Sharon looked the trees over carefully while her husband managed the tree cart. Kodiak galloped back and forth between the two. "He loves it here," Sharon said, nodding toward the shepherd.
The Foster family of Chesterfield was on a mission to find two trees. For one, they picked out a Concolor fir, a tree Lindner recommends for its color and aroma. "We've been coming here for fifteen years," Karen Foster said. "It's our tradition."
Sunbrite is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (on cloudy days, they close at 4:40 p.m.) every day until Christmas. Trees are priced at $3.30 per foot, and there's no charge for the happy holiday memories that go home with every tree.