Steeped in family history, Heritage Valley Tree Farm strives to preserve and sustain its legacy by bringing people and nature together to celebrate Christmas. The farm's name reflects its ancestors' connection to the land and those who settled this historic Missouri river valley before them.
Recognized by the Missouri Century Farm program, Heritage Valley Tree Farm has been owned by the same family for more than 160 years. This beautiful, seventy-five acre farm is located just 20 minutes south of downtown Washington, Missouri and the Missouri River. Current owners, Vern and Bee Spaunhorst, invite everyone each Christmas season to experience the fun holiday tradition of choosing a real Christmas tree. The farm’s family history deeds back to 1857 when Vern’s great-great-great-grandfather, George Holtmeier (Holtmeyer), owned the land. Fast-forward to the 1970s: Vern was in his twenties and his father was contemplating selling the farm. Vern asked if they could keep the farm in the family, and thus he and Bee began working the land. Too small of a farm for typical large-scale crops like corn and beans, Vern and Bee decided to try their hands at planting Christmas trees. What a learning experience it has been, and continues to be! The first evergreen seedlings, Scotch pine, were planted in 1983 with the help of Vern’s father, Ray. Scotch pine tolerates clay soil and both hot and cold temperatures, but is prone to insects and disease. After battling Scotch pine difficulties for over a decade, the Spaunhorsts heard about a different tree variety in their region, planted with some success, the Canaan Fir. Firs typically do not fair well with Missouri climate, but planted in the right soil conditions, the West Virginia native Canaan could grow well. Vern and Bee planted some in an area of the farm with lighter soil and good drainage and found success! It is now a favorite to many. Today, the farm has 30 acres of choose and cut Christmas trees, in all stages of growth, and continues to experiment with different varieties. Current varieties for harvest include: Canaan fir, White pine, Norway spruce and Virginia pine.
1983 - Vern farming with his children.
1989 - Vern and Bee pose by their first tree crop.
1994 - Vern welcoming visitors to the farm.
One area of the farm regularly floods making it unsuitable for Christmas trees. Pecan trees can tolerate floodwater for several days, so what did Vern and Bee do? With the help of Vern’s father once again, they also established a pecan orchard in 1983! Tiny saplings from the Missouri Department of Conservation were planted, and several years later grafted with pecan varieties known to produce very good nuts. They grew for two decades while Vern focused on his full-time occupation, Mechanical engineering, along with the Christmas trees. As retirement approached, the vision of a pecan orchard had become a reality. The family harvested their first significant pecan crop in 2008. Available after harvest in November, the farm-grown pecans continue to grow in popularity. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon presented the Spaunhorst family with the Governor’s Award for Agricultural Achievement in 2011, which honors outstanding farms, growers and processors in Missouri. What an amazing day it was with Vern’s mother, Bernadine Baumker Spaunhorst, along with family, friends and neighbors, to witness the family farm being honored. What would have great-great-great-grandfather George thought about this?! Vern and Bee have five grown children and feel fortunate they all live in the area. With help from them, their spouses, and 5 grandchildren, the family farm continues to grow and thrive as they look to celebrate their 30th season as a choose and cut Christmas tree farm!
2019 - Vern and Bee with their five grown children, their spouses, and grandchildren.