On a foggy Monday afternoon families in pickups roll up a driveway, past 1930s trucks and tractors and wooden carvings of a black bear – reared up, paws raised with sharp teeth bared – and a sasquatch that looks like the one from the Harry and the Hendersons movie, on their way to the main office at Gogo’s Christmas Tree Farm.
Black bears might be common on Vancouver Island and sasquatches maybe not so much, but there are plenty of trees for families to choose and cut their perfect Christmas tree.
The Gogo family has raised Christmas trees on the farm since 1929. Some of the first shipments of trees went to markets in San Francisco.
“That was the first year, ’29,” said Mike Gogo, owner. “We were always wholesale, but about 35 years ago I decided to try this U-cut … so we put a network of roads in here – formerly we had cattle here – and the first year we had about 150 people and now we’re doing about 4,000. This last weekend, Saturday and Sunday, we sold 700 and something trees.”
Gogo’s grandfather, John Gogo, bought the property, about 162 hectares in size, in 1897 and raised mules he rented to Nanaimo’s coal mine operations. Logging and the sawmill started in the mid 1930s. About 40 hectares are dedicated to Christmas tree farming. Some of the tracked machines displayed along the farm’s driveway were purchased by his father in 1934.
Gogo’s Christmas Tree Farm supplies trees to various commercial markets, schools and churches and for people who can’t drive up to the farm, he has a pre-cut Christmas tree lot on Pryde Avenue in central Nanaimo.
“The biggest challenge is to get enough trees, because they don’t grow overnight,” he said, while touring the farm.
To improve production, Gogo has prepared fields and planted trees in rows to make them easier and faster to fertilize and prune.
“Five years ago there was nothing here. Just a humpy bumpy thing,” he said. “A friend of mine’s got a big Cat and I said go in here and make that just so,” Gogo said. “One thing we’ve got up here is rocks. It’s glacial till and we’ve got rocks till hell won’t have ‘em. Four times we picked them off with a big Cat and then I picked them off with a loader.”
About 30,000 trees, all in rows, grow behind the wooden sasquatch Gogo has named Old Harry S. Joe.
A yew tree that he estimates is about 400 years old stands among fields of foreign and domestic varieties of Christmas trees. Gogo stops by a distinctly blue noble fir.
“Look at the blue colour on this bugger. Isn’t that beautiful? I have not lost my enthusiasm for it,” said Gogo, 74. “The guy that invented pruning Christmas trees, I was a good friend of his. His name was [Bernard] Douglass. He lived in Hillsboro, Ore., and he was the guy, in 1956, decided that you could prune trees back to look nice. He also invented the barbless blackberry … he told me a lot of things. I wish I had listened to a few more because I’ve paid some big lessons by not listening to him exactly like I should, but I do now.”
Gogo’s trees, regardless of size or variety, are $30 each. Gogo supplies a handsaw and Swiss chocolates. The farm also sells Christmas wreaths and other Christmas-related items.
“That’s a good deal in this day and age because they’re wholesaling out of the States for $25 plus exchange, plus freight, so you won’t get an American tree up here – they’re a bunch of dried-out [expletive] anyhow – for under $40 Canadian,” Gogo said. “But you know what it’s all about with us is we make our money in lumber … and I don’t want anybody to not come out here because they’re not working or they’ve been on strike and stuff like that. In fact, anybody that hasn’t been working or a single mom or anything like that, if they want a tree just talk to Mike. He’ll give you a tree.”
Gogo’s Christmas Tree Farm is located at 2625 South Forks Rd. and the farm also runs a Christmas tree lot at 55 Pryde Ave.
For opening hours and other information, call 250-754-2276 or visit the farm’s Facebook page at https://bit.ly/2RmIw38.