Photography by ALICE MARY HERDEN
Just east of Ridge Manor towards Richloam is a very unique farm, it doesn’t have cows roaming the 24 acres, but what it does have is a nice selection of Florida grown Christmas trees.
Omar Ergle, tried to establish an orange grove in Dade City, FL back in the 70’s and as a border along the property line, he planted red cedars. For two years in a row, his orange grove froze but the red cedar trees continued to flourish. A concept for a u-cut Christmas tree farm was developed that eventually turned into a family business.
“Back in the day my father owned a farm in Dade City, we kind of piggy back off that and started this farm,” said Ergle’s daughter Debbie Harris. Debbie and Tony Harris are the owners of the Ergle Christmas Tree farm located 3325 Treiman Blvd. (US 301), Dade City. They planted the first tree in 1982. The couple has presented both Gov. Lawton Chiles and Gov. Jeb Bush with the Governor’s Christmas Tree on behalf of the Florida Christmas Tree Association.
“He (Debbie’s father) started planting Christmas trees and at one time he was the largest farm in central Florida,” added Debbie’s husband Tony Harris.
Sand pines and southern red cedar are grown at the Ergle Farm and popular out of state trees like Douglas and Fraser Firs are imported.
“Southern red cedar is the traditional Florida Christmas tree,” Tony Harris said. “When I was growing up that was the only tree I knew as Christmas trees.”
Red cedars fell out of favor in Florida because they are itchy and the Douglas and Fraser Firs have become more readily available.
The red cedar can grow 25 to 45 feet tall, spreading 20 to 30 feet wide. Rows and rows of them are available for those interested in experiencing a Florida Christmas tree tradition.
Customers can grab a saw, walk acres of beautiful fresh Florida Christmas trees and choose which tree is right for their family holiday. The farm also offers Christmas trees grown in containers.
Long time customers from all over the state visit the Ergle Christmas tree farm every year to purchase their tree.
“We build our business on customer service,” Tony said. “We want every customer to be happy, that is the most important thing…. when people come here they leave happy.”
For the December holiday, there are a variety of trees suitable for any home or business as well as hand decorated live wreaths created by Debbie.
For directions to Ergle Christmas Tree and holiday hours visit http://www.ergletrees.com/