When Joyce (Penton) Schnoor picked up a Press Gazette over 30 years ago, she read an article that changed the rest of her life.
The article was about how there was no business for Christmas trees or Christmas tree farmers in the south because no one wanted them during the annual holiday.
Those were the words of a former agriculture commissioner. But Joyce and her husband wanted to prove the commissioner wrong, so they started up Whispering Pines Christmas Tree Farm in Milton.
Joyce and her husband Dean started the farm in January 1980 after Dean retired from the U.S. Army in 1979. They attended an organizational meeting of the Florida Christmas Tree Association held at the Forestry School at University of Florida, and the rest is history.
“It looked really easy to do,” Joyce said. “Dean kept saying it looked easy, but boy was he wrong.”
Years later, they perfected their Christmas tree farm. But their only interest is not just the Christmas Tree as they are set to participate in the Beaches to Woodlands Tour.
“We do a lot more than just Christmas trees,” Schnoor said.
During the Beaches to Woodlands Tour, Schnoor and her family give out free hayrides on the weekend. They also do other fun activities that Schnoor described as “corny”.
“We have a cow calling contest…whoever gets the cows to come to the fence by calling them gets a free Christmas Tree,” Schnoor said. “It’s kind of corny, but that’s how we are out here.”
The cow-=calling event takes place at 4 p.m. each day during the Beaches to Woodlands Tour leading up to Christmas Tree season.
Along with the calling of the cows, Schnoor said the farm is also going to have a haunted hayride leading up to Halloween.
“The haunted hay rides start October 19 and 20, the 26, 27 and 28 and we have it on Halloween too,” Schnoor said.
The haunted hayrides will take people on a tour through the farm. The cost will be $5.
The free hayrides given out during the Beaches to Woodlands Tour take place at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
“If we have someone come by and they want to do it at a certain time, that’s fine too,” Schnoor said.
Also during the tour, Schnoor said she and members of her family demonstrate how to plant baby Christmas trees. Something the farm owner and her husband found was not so easy to do back in 1980.
“We used to do those demonstrations on field trips with the local schools,” Schnoor said. “We think if people come here, they should learn a little something about the environment.
“There’s a lot of work involved in it.”
Schnoor said the farm also plans on doing something else for the Beaches to Woodlands Tour, but it is still up in the air right now.
“If the weather is good on Friday and Saturday night, we wanted to do a sitting around the camp fire type of hayride where families can come out and watch the stars and sit around a fire,” Schnoor said.
Schnoor said that just because it’s not Christmas tree season doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do on the farm.
“You meet a lot of nice people doing this,” she said. “We love the outdoors, and that’s why we do it.
“And more importantly, it’s fun for the family.”
For more information check out the Whispering Pines Christmas Tree Farm website at floridachristmastree.com. The website will be updated with more information and activities for the Beaches to Woodlands Tour as it rolls on throughout the month of October.
Want to go?
The Whispering Pines Christmas Tree Farm is located at 1603 Penton Road in Milton. For more information or directions, call 449-4316.