Birch Island Farm in Waldron looks quite different than it did when Andrea Lux and her husband purchased the property 10 years ago.
The story began when Lux’s father became ill and had to move in with her, her husband, and her teenage daughter. They were living in Prescott and purchased the farm so her family could have a larger, more comfortable place to live.
“We were looking for a bigger place for all of us, and financially we were just in the right place at the right time when the housing market crashed,” she said. “We were able to get this place, and every morning we have pinched ourselves that we have been so blessed to be able to be here.”
The 12-and-a-half-acre farm originally produced soy and corn and even had cattle. Lux and her husband decided they wanted to try to grow something new.
“We were trying to figure out a way for it to make more sense, for us to best utilize our land,” she said. “The ideas that we came up with – there was a garlic farm, u-pick strawberries, all these things we were banting around.”
After visiting some friends in Michigan, where Lux is from, the couple drove by a Christmas Tree Farm, and the rest is history.
“I was driving, I looked at my husband and said ‘Google Christmas Tree farms,’” she said. “And so he did a search, and when I came home I got a little farther into the computer, and called the Indiana Christmas Tree Growers Association.”
And the Birch Island name? Lux’s grandparents escaped from Latvia, a small European country, during World War II and came to Michigan when Lux’s mother was four. Birch Trees are native to Latvia (and northern Michigan), so the trees hold a special place in Lux’s heart.
“Other than the summer solstice, Christmas is the biggest holiday in the Latvian culture,” she said. “And it’s so far north that Birch trees are kind of like – there’s folk songs written about them. So when my grandparents immigrated here, they tended to flock to what the homeland felt like. They settled in Michigan.”
The property also sports two ponds, one with a small island in it (which the Lux family uses a paddleboat to get to). Hence the name, Birch Island Farm. The Lux family even planted a Birch tree on the island as a Mother’s Day gift.
Lux planted the first Christmas trees five years ago and has planted more each year, totaling to about 5,000 now. It takes about seven years for a Christmas tree to be fully grown and ready for living rooms, so Birch Island Farm isn’t quite selling them yet and won’t be for a couple more years.
“It’s a slow business,” she said.
But Lux’s daughter, who is going for a business degree, told her it’s important to get the Birch Island Farm name out now so people become familiar with the area when the Christmas Trees are ready.
“I talked to my daughter, who had just started college at the time,” she said. “It was her idea to start a pumpkin patch. She said ‘you’re gonna need to get people up to the property to get them used to coming up.’”
So a pumpkin patch popped up on the property. Lux said she’s sold pumpkins for three years: she wasn’t able to sell last year because the season was so wet it ruined the crops, and Birch Island Farm actually wasn’t open last year.
Lux had similar issues this year, but she didn’t want to close the farm two years in a row, so she brought in pumpkins from local farms to sell in addition to the few her farm produced.
“This year, the drought was just so bad, we didn’t have a lot of pumpkins,” she said. “But my daughter said we can’t not open two years in a row.”
This year, the farm features local Shelby County vendors. Lux said because of COVID-19, a lot of the places that these vendors normally sell their products are closed, and so she wanted to provide a place to promote local businesses.
“I thought, well, if I can get some vendors up here to help them with their small businesses, then I will do that,” she said.
Now, the barn that once housed the Lux family man cave is filled with shelves and tables showcasing fall-themed products from local vendors, like beanie hats, hand-crocheted blankets and decor.
Lux began having vendors when Heather Ramsey (who owns Kustom Krafts) decided to have a pop-up, one-day fall shop and Lux brought some of her products. She said the event went really well, and Ramsey encouraged her to begin having vendors.
“People are itching to get out,” she said. “If you could kind of distance and have a little ventilation and people can get that holiday-cozy-pumpkin-spice feeling or whatever... It seemed to work out really well. I’d never had vendors before and it kind of exploded, actually. Which is good.”
In addition to Kustom Krafts, Birch Island Farms is also selling items by M Lux Crochet, Stitches of Love by Liz, Blankets by B, Bass Farms and Homestead Refinement. Haley’s Pastries will occasionally set up and sell food too, but those products aren’t there all the time.
“As long as I can make it safe for people to come up, I’m all about [having vendors],” she said.
The jack-of-all-trades farm is also a popular spot for high school seniors to have their senior photos taken.
In addition to the Christmas Trees, the Pumpkin Patch, the vendors and the photoshoots, Lux is also looking to offer cut flowers next spring. She said she’s had several requests for that.
“We’ll see if we can’t maybe do a little something every month throughout the year until we get [to selling trees],” she said.
Birch Island Farm is open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekends.
The farm is located at 7430 E. SR 244, Waldron. Call 317-604-0620 for more information.