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After 40,000 Christmas trees, Clearview Farm’s Bill and Jane Adams set to call it a career

  • The last 100 wholesale trees from Clearview Christmas Tree Farm, which is celebrating its final year after 27 years in business, await delivery Nov. 21, 2017 in Cummington. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • A 1901 photograph of the Cummington property where Clearview Christmas Tree Farm owners Bill and Jane Adams now reside depicts the original house and barn on the property, built in the 1700s, as well as Jane’s great-grandparents Alexius and Lydia Wells and her grandfather Darwin Wells. The structures were later rebuilt to look like the originals. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • The last 100 wholesale trees from Clearview Christmas Tree Farm, which is celebrating its final year after 27 years in business, await delivery Nov. 21, 2017 in Cummington. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Bill Adams of Clearview Christmas Tree Farm talks about what makes a good tree Nov. 21, 2017 on the Cummington property. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Bill and Jane Adams of Clearview Christmas Tree Farm, shown Nov. 21, 2017 on their Cummington property, are celebrating the final year for their business after 27 years in operation. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Bill and Jane Adams of Clearview Christmas Tree Farm, shown Nov. 21, 2017 on their Cummington property, are celebrating the final year for their business after 27 years in operation. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Bill Adams of Clearview Christmas Tree Farm drives through the Cummington property Nov. 21, 2017. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Bill Adams of Clearview Christmas Tree Farm looks at a blue ribbon indicating a premium grade tree Nov. 21, 2017 on the Cummington property. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Jane Adams shows off her custom-designed hat. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Bill and Jane Adams of Clearview Christmas Tree Farm, shown on their Cummington property, are celebrating the final year for their business after 27 years in operation. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • A Balsam tree stands out against the blue sky Nov. 21, 2017 at Clearview Christmas Tree Farm in Cummington. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Bill Adams of Clearview Christmas Tree Farm points out attributes of a good tree Nov. 21, 2017 on the Cummington property. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Bill and Jane Adams of Clearview Christmas Tree Farm walk through their now somewhat sparse Cummington property Nov. 21, 2017 during the final year for their business after 27 years in operation. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY



@BeraDunau
Monday, November 27, 2017

CUMMINGTON — After growing 40,000 Christmas trees together for the last 27 years, it’s hard to believe anything about the industry would surprise Bill and Jane Adams.

But that’s just what happened earlier this fall as the couple, who first started dating more than 50 years ago, tied off the final batch of wholesale Christmas trees at their Clearview Christmas Tree Farm in the Hilltowns.

“We both cried,” Bill says, recalling how he worked the bale machine that covers the trees in netting and Jane tied them off.

Clearview Christmas Tree has been in operation on Porter Hill for 27 years. And while the Adamses are the first to admit that it hasn’t been the most profitable venture, they also describe it in terms that can only apply to a labor of love.

“It was clearly a labor of love,” said Bill.

“It pretty much possessed us,” said Jane.

Bill grew up in Connecticut while Jane grew up in New Hampshire, with the pair meeting at Springfield College when Bill was a senior and Jane a freshman. He subsequently stole her freshman beanie, and refused to give it back until she agreed to go out with him.

“It all went uphill from there,” said Jane.

Jane’s family roots in Cummington stretch well back into the 19th century. Indeed, the farm that Jane and Bill call home has been in her family in 1864, and Dodwells Road, where the farm is located, is named after the Wells family, Jane’s paternal side.

“As they say, I married up,” said Bill.

Their journey to the homestead started following Bill’s retirement from the Navy, after a 26-year career that took him to ports that included Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Kingsville, Texas. He left the service as a captain, after a career of working as an aircraft maintenance officer.

Christmas trees take root

Bill says he often talked with a friend, John Unwin, about what they would do when they retired from the military. Unwin was a career Air Force man, and the decision was made to grow Christmas trees.

Searching for land, it was discovered that Francis Wells, Jane’s uncle and the owner of the farm at the time, was looking to sell the 87-acre lot on Porter Hill. After some negotiation, the lot was sold, and the farm was started in 1991.

“We had no experience,” Bill says. “We learned it from the ground-up.”

“We never knew going into it just how many hours a year it would take,” Jane says.

The farm would have its first harvest near the turn of the millennium. Unwin would leave the partnership in the mid-2000s.

Shearing, basel trimming, mowing and fertilizing are all necessary chores to maintain the trees.

To help with the work, Bill and Jane called on their friends and military buddies. In the absence of paying them, the Adamses provided this coterie of helpers with food, single-malt whiskey, monogrammed items of clothing, and games of Canasta.

“We had a great time,” Jane says.

Bill also utilized an innovative technique to motivate his crew, placing a beer at the end of each row of trees when they were basel pruning them.

The crew would arrive on Nov. 10, the Marine Corps’ birthday, and do the difficult work of harvesting with the Adamses over the next few weekends.

Free tree for life

Anyone who came up to help on the tree farm would get a free tree for life, and the crew members got to select and cut their trees after the harvest was complete. This number includes at least one man who has been coming for 27 years to help.

Christmas trees are sold under a classification system of Premium, No. 1’s and No. 2’s. At Clearview, Premiums have blue tags, No. 1’s have red tags and No. 2’s have no tags. The fullness and evenness of a tree’s foliage are the key determining factor.

However, gaps are not always looked at as a bad thing by customers. Indeed, Jane tells the story of a woman who decorates her tree with a teddy bear collection and wanted a large gap that she could put a teddy bear in.

“She didn’t want a perfect tree,” said Jane. “Every tree has a home.”

Some trees are also sold for use as wreaths.

Jane herself is a great lover of Christmas decorating, and while she used to pick out the family Christmas tree early, she now waits, as some of the best trees are still left.

“No matter what tree you take it always looks beautiful when you get it in the house,” she said.

“It doesn’t have to be the perfect one,” said Jane. “It’s perfect when you get it decorated.”

For the vast majority of their time running Clearview, Bill and Jane lived in both Springfield, Virginia, and Cummington.

“We were running back and forth,” said Bill.

They bought the family farmhouse and the 38 acres that came with it in 2001, and became residents of Cummington in 2014, after selling their Virginia home.

“It became too hard,” said Jane.

Winding down

A few years ago, Bill and Jane made the decision to stop planting, so as to wind down the operation. This year marks the culmination of their plan.

“He counted the years up,” Jane says.

In order to mark this ending, the farm is having a special sale for the you-cut Christmas Tree portion of its business. The you-cut period began the day after Thanksgiving, and this year all proceeds will benefit the Village Church of Cummington. Bill and Jane are members of the church, and Jane said that her family has been involved with it for generations.

“It’s an old family church to us,” said Jane.

“Like most small churches they are in constant need,” said Bill, who said that he and his wife have found a home there.

Those interested in purchasing a tree can call 413-634-5342 to set up an appointment. People will be able to pay whatever they feel the tree they cut down is worth, regardless of the grading of the tree.

“You put in the box what you think that tree is worth to you,” he said.

However, a donation of $30 is suggested.

“The goal is to help clear the lot,” said Jane.

Bill and Jane also revealed an emotional connection to the trees.

“I have touched every one of these ... with love and care,” said Bill.

“We’re giving a part of us,” he continued. “We just … love it.”

The sale will run until Christmas Eve or first snowfall, whichever comes first.

Moving forward, the Porter Hill field will be converted into corn and hay and possibly pasture land for neighboring farmers, although Bill expressed a willingness to reopen the you-cut business next year. Still, Jane wants at least some trees to stay.

“I want those trees left for my old age,” said Jane, saying that she never wants to buy a tree from someone else after growing her own.

The Adamses also board heifers in their barn for another farmer.

The couple plan on making the farm their forever home, and their two daughters and son are also interested in the property.

“They’re gonna have to share it (with each other),” said Jane.

Indeed, the pair have picked out burial plots in Dawes Cemetery in Cummington, where generations of Jane’s family have been laid to rest.

Bill is also a selectman in Cummington, having been elected in 2015 in a write-in campaign, following in the footsteps of Francis Wells, who was first selectmen in Cummington for over 25 years.

In the absence of maintaining the trees, Jane and Bill say they will travel, visit their grandchildren and explore hobbies.

Editor’s note: This story was changed at 10:45 a.m. on Nov. 27 to correct the spelling of “basel pruning.”