‘I call it my little Hallmark movie’: Find Christmas trees, crafts at Branch View Farm in Heath

  • Owner Kelly Griswold hangs a wreath on the post-and-beam barn at Branch View Farm in Heath. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Griswolds planted 700 Christmas trees at Branch View Farm in Heath in advance of the holiday season. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Inside the post-and-beam barn at Branch View Farm in Heath, where visitors can find handmade crafts like wooden cutting boards, spoons, snowmen and reindeer. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Owner Heidi Griswold in the barn at Branch View Farm in Heath. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Branch View Farm in Heath is just off Route 8A on West Branch Road. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

For the Recorder
Published: 11/27/2020 4:50:57 PM
Modified: 11/27/2020 4:50:47 PM

HEATH — Craft making and farming run deep in the heritage of Heidi and Kelly Griswold, the owners of the newly established Branch View Farm, where Christmas trees and crafts are the culmination of years of family support and skills passed from parent to child.

Despite a summer drought and a pandemic, they are excited the farm at 12 West Branch Road will be offering Christmas trees for the first time this year, not to mention expanded gift shop offerings.

In its gift shop, Branch View Farm sells pre-cut Christmas trees, wreaths and other crafts, all handmade by family members or local artisans, such as Kelly’s wooden cutting boards, spoons, snowmen and reindeer. In addition, they offer the barn and property as a wedding venue.

“I call it my little Hallmark movie,” Heidi said.

The gift shop and wedding venue in the barn opened last November; however, Christmas trees are a new addition this season, with all 700 having been planted this spring and fall. Heidi said she is looking forward to planting more trees and providing a cut-your-own option in the future.

“We know it’s been a difficult year for a lot of people and we have seen a lot of interest from people who want to display their crafts,” Heidi said. “The word is getting out more. We’re excited to see what the holidays will hold.”

Heidi and Kelly Griswold bought the property across from Heidi’s childhood home five years ago from extended family, where they tore down an old barn structure and built from scratch a post-and-beam barn with lumber sawed on Kelly’s sawmill. Although they initially intended the barn to be used for storage, the Griswolds saw the potential in their property to both share their land and work with the community, and invest in their future.

“We thought, ‘This is a beautiful building with a beautiful view, something way more than should just be used for storage,’” Heidi said. “We put the barn back in the middle of a large field, and we thought this would be a great location for Christmas trees and for retirement.”

Heidi grew up in her father’s childhood home and has lived in Heath for more than 40 years. Her father, born in 1932, was raised while her grandparents were still farming the land around the house, and he later became a carpenter and craftsperson. Her family has been in Heath since the early 1900s, “maybe before,” she added.

Both of Heidi’s parents were craft makers, and Heidi’s mother, who was a pillar of support throughout the process, continues to make crafts for the shop, including table runners and Christmas tree skirts.

“When my dad was alive he would make a lot of wooden crafts and she would paint them or decorate them. My mom is continuing some of that as well,” Heidi said, admitting that although she learned some of her mother’s craft, she was not gifted with her mother’s skill. “I’m a terrible crafter,” she added with a laugh.

Kelly’s father, also a carpenter, was “a big part of the barn building,” Heidi said. “He had never built a post-and-beam structure before, and his dad helped him in a lot of ways,” she said, describing how her father-in-law helped her husband understand this style of structure and helped chisel the beams by hand.

“Our children, Kirsten and Kenny, have been a big part of this with us,” Heidi said, grateful to the friends and family members that made the project possible. “On Memorial Day weekend, we set out planting Christmas trees together and we got them all planted on that Saturday.”

Through talking with other Christmas tree farms, Heidi noted that lots of farms were struggling after this summer’s drought and many were losing trees. One farm she spoke with that doesn’t irrigate its trees expected to lose 20 to 30 percent of trees due to the drought.

“Depending on the location and the ability to water their trees — that has a big impact on whether or not trees survive,” Heidi said.

At Branch View Farm, Kelly had to water the trees himself to get through the summer months.

“We seem to be very lucky. Some other tree farms have lost a higher percentage,” Heidi said. “We won’t know for another few years if all of the trees are going to survive, but they definitely have grown.”

The barn is open, social distancing and masks are required, hand sanitizer is available and the pre-cut Christmas trees are sold outside. Many of the products will be displayed on social media to keep proceedings efficient and allow for a contactless drive-thru pickup for those who don’t wish to enter the store, with pickups to be scheduled by phone or email ahead of time.

“We want to make sure we’re 100 percent compliant with COVID restrictions,” Heidi said.

While Branch View Farm was not able to have certain anticipated activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as Santa Claus and cookie decorating, a pandemic-safe coloring contest will take place, with a downloadable print on the farm’s website that can be exchanged when colored-in for a treat at the store. Prizes will be awarded on Dec. 20.

Branch View Farm is open every Saturday and Sunday from Nov. 28 through Dec. 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit branchviewfarm.com.


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