In true farm kid fashion, Sarah Scharlau was born at the worst possible time in the middle of the harvest season. Christmas tree harvest season that is. Sarah is now a fifth-generation FarmHer at Pleasant Valley Tree Farm. Her farm is the perfect place to create country Christmas memories. Chatting with her for this episode FarmHer Talks feels like walking in a winter wonderland.
An average day for Sarah includes coming home covered in sap, oil, green spray, bruises, diesel, ragweed, cuts, dirt, and a little glitter. But not a day goes by where she does not think about how lucky she is to work alongside her family on this special farm.
Country Christmas Memories
Sarah grew up alongside four siblings, her parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and dozens of cousins all on the farm.
She enjoys being one big happy family living, growing, laughing, working, and playing together while also building a successful business. Out of her father’s six siblings, he sparked the most interest in the family farm. Luckily for Sarah, that means that she and her four siblings do most of the labor around the farm. All five of the kids may not all agree on this, but she believes they are extremely blessed their father made that decision years ago.
Since she can remember, Sarah has been Christmas tree farm obsessed.
Her father tells the story of him and his four-year-old Sarah driving a gooseneck load of trees into downtown Minneapolis. When they arrived to unload the 450 trees, Sarah followed right alongside her dad, crawled into the back of the trailer, and started trying to carry seven-foot Christmas trees all by herself!
Wherever or whatever her parents were doing on the farm, she has always been right there.
It’s a Family Tradition
Her family farm has been operating for five generations nestled in the hills of Elk Mound, Wisconsin.
The farm was homesteaded in 1893 by Sarah’s great-great-grandparents. The farm started off as a dairy, crop, and hog farm before Sarah’s grandfather got the craving to try something new in 1976.
The first Christmas trees were planted by her grandparents, father, and his five siblings. From there the tradition continued.
The tree farm is now a very successful operation where they’ve added fun activities too, like a fall harvest festival. In addition, they bought many mobile home courts.
The passion for her grandparents and parents really stayed in the Christmas trees, though. Now, her parents and two brothers are running the farm and many rental units. The other two siblings are still in school, but also work on the farm day in day out. She and her brothers each take on a different area of the rental business, but all three work in every area of the farm.
Talk About a Busy Holiday Season
She and her siblings do anything and everything. From baking cookies, bars, and treats for their fall harvest festival, stocking their concession stand, setting up the spooky woods, cleaning out bounce houses, helping set hay forts, planting pumpkins, painting background scenes, driving tractors for hayrides, and working in the gift shop, they’ve done it all. And that’s all just for the entertainment aspect in the fall.
For the Christmas tree side of the business, everyone has a hand in planting 25,000 trees yearly, shearing thousands of trees, green spraying 3,000 white pine, fertilizing all of the trees, picking pine cones on 150,000 Fraser Firs, mowing 300 acres of tree fields, cutting down 15,0000 trees yearly, bailing trees, loading semi-trucks, doing financial books, payroll, taxes, serving over 10,000 of cups and bags of hot chocolate, popcorn and hot cider to their customers, picking boughs, making 750 wreaths, 3500ft of roping, 100 porch pots and then decorating everything so it is over the top festive for Christmas.
Whew! Just reading all of their tasks makes me tired!
Independent FarmHer Spirit
Sarah’s father always told her and her sister that if they put their minds to it, they could have and do everything their brothers did. She is so thankful that he gave them that opportunity. Now, her parents have two hardworking girls who can run a chainsaw flawlessly, graciously back up a 25-foot trailer, drive a tractor, talk about any Christmas Tree species just as well as their sons (if not better). The girls also set up a beautiful gift shop, bake like there is no tomorrow, decorate porch pots, wreaths, and swags just like Martha Stewart.
The girls’ independent FarmHer spirit was modeled from both of their grandmothers and their own mother. From the shop to the field, they were there. And Sarah feels blessed to be raised by women who are proud to be in the agriculture world.
To her whole family, this is more than a job. Their farm is giving back to the earth, promoting keeping Christ in Christmas, helping other families create traditions, continuing a legacy their grandparents started, and most of all building a stronger, healthier, and happier family unit.
And to me, that is the ultimate family tradition.
We all eat, and that is why farming will always matter. Everybody Eats is where the stories of food and farming intersect.
These stories told through my FarmHer lens connect us to our food and more importantly, the people behind it.
Everybody Eats is a collection of stories of those who protect our rural communities, who grow our food with extraordinary care, and who provide support, education, and assistance to make sure Everybody Eats.