Farm History and Operating Philosophy
The farm is owned and operated by Denny and Marge Gunia.
We bought the farm in 1983. It did contain a small field of Christmas trees. However, you could not see them. The weeds and brush were taller than the trees. A tractor was bought . Very slowly we started mowing the brush, culling trees and planting new seedlings. During this time, we came up on weekends and camped in the area adjacent to the bonfire and picnic tables.
Our first trees from the farm were sold in 1986 at a retail lot we set up in Northwest Houston at the corner of Huffmeister and Cypress North Houston . Soon demand for the trees at the lot exceeded the number we could get off the farm. At this point, we started buying Texas trees from other Christmas tree farms. Even with these additional trees, the lot was always out of trees and shut down by December 15.
We tried to personalize the lot and to do things differently from all of the other "big" Christmas tree lots around us. Some of what we did at the lot and proved to be very successful were:
Cut and brought Texas grown trees in small loads only as needed with very few kept in the stockpile.
Kept all trees including those in the stockpile in water
All trees for sale were individually displayed
All trees were individually priced according to how perfect the tree was and not by height.
Mechanical cleaning and baling of the tree was available to all customers
All trees sold were given a fresh cut before they left the lot
All customers were met at the gate and "invited" in to view the trees
Money back guarantee on any tree bought by our customer and returned for any reason before Christmas.
Emphasized being a family run lot in contrast to the chain operations surrounding us.
All customers were placed on a mailing list for the next year.
In 1988, we started up the farm as a choose and cut operation open only on weekends. Our customers had the choice of going to the farm or to the lot.
As many of our past customers may remember, my parents ran the farm with the help of a few local kids. Marge and I ran the retail lot with a multitude of high school kids. Several of these first workers are now coming to the farm with their own children in tow.
In 1994 with my parents in their upper seventies, we decided to concentrate on only one location. Since it was more fun selling the trees at the farm, we shut down the retail lot and concentrated our energies on the farm.
With that decision, Mill Hollow has expanded several times over and is currently limited by the number of trees we can grow. This will soon be corrected with the addition of another large field.
We have no desire to be the biggest farm in Texas. Our goal is to be the farm with the personal touch where families will come, enjoy their visit, tell their neighbors about us and return in future years. The many years we have operated the farm, word of mouth has been by far our largest supplier of new customers. Our customers know what type of people would enjoy our place and send them our way.
A little about us. Marge was a school teacher and is now a massage therapist. Sarah has graduated from high school, went to college at Southwest Texas University and now fending for herself. I was a chemical engineer in Houston and now retired. Marge and I are both from Wisconsin and educated at the University of Wisconsin. We came to Texas via Long Beach, California. This is another story and includes the Vietnam War draft, a 1968 MGB, a stint as a combat engineer and living on a California beach!
We went into the Christmas tree business when I gave up 26.2 mile marathon races. It requires about the same amount of energy and dedication. (For those serious joggers out there, I completed five marathons with the fastest time being a relatively slow three hours and twenty two minutes.)
For those of you who think growing Christmas trees in Texas requires no work, I invite you to come to the farm during one of our semi annual shearing sessions. Shaping the trees on our farm requires carrying on your back a 10 foot hedge clipper powered by a gasoline engine and walking 75 miles during the hot and extremely humid months of May and August. By the way, this machine will cut with ease tree branches the size of your finger or your finger if it gets in the way.
Now for our philosophy. We believe that families want a fresh quality tree at a reasonable price. They also want the experience of going to the farm, selecting the tree, cutting it down, and bringing it home. If you treat your customers right, they will reward you in more ways than money.
We do not price our trees by the foot since this leads to the best trees being sold first. We also limit the number of trees available for sale so as to insure that we will have beautiful trees of the size you want when you come back in future years. All trees are individually priced based on overall "perfectness" . "Perfectness" is what Marge believes a Christmas tree should look like.
We believe every tree has a chance to be your family Christmas tree . It may not be this year, but next year or the year after. Therefore, we do not clear cut unsold Christmas trees but care for them another year when they will be bigger and more beautiful. We also plant new seedlings in January at the stump on any tree which was cut or died from natural causes. Trees which do not meet our high standards for a Christmas tree are used in Christmas wreaths. These wreaths are also available at the farm.
We are not the place for you, if you are of the type who looks at getting a Christmas tree as a hassle and want to spend as little time as possible doing it. We especially do not want you at the farm if you are a "Christmas Grouch". You may want to go to other farms or lots closer to your house.
We want customers who believe getting the tree is one of the joys of Christmas and the entire family must be involved in this memory making adventure. Time spent at Mill Hollow with your family is quality time.
We also feel many who do not get a real Christmas tree for "environmental reasons" should consider the following and think about it:
Through photosynthesis, the Christmas tree takes global warming carbon dioxide and converts the carbon into wood and returns to the atmosphere the life required oxygen . Our fields of Christmas trees provide oxygen for you and 399 of your friends year after year! More importantly, an estimated 112 tons of global warming carbon dioxide has been removed from the atmosphere by our Christmas trees. If you include the mature trees in the forests of the farm, a rough estimate is that Mill Hollow removes over 500 tons of global warming carbon dioxide and provide oxygen for 1600 people.
Precious life required oxygen was consumed in the furnaces, heaters and boilers to make the plastics which ended up in the artificial tree sitting in your attic!
Christmas trees can be recycled! The wood containing carbon is converted by soil microbes into soil additives. Even if you discard your Christmas tree to the landfill, the wood containing the carbon has been removed from the atmosphere and will probably eventually be covered as natural gas from the land fill.
Artificial trees can not be recycled since in nearly all cases their plastic is not identified or contains impurities making it not suitable for recycling. If you look carefully on some of the artificial tree boxes, you can find warnings about the tree containing lead compounds. Lead can hurt children as seen by lead paint used in the past.
Native animals, birds and snakes make Mill Hollow their home.
A fresh cut tree is nearly impossible to burn if kept in water and away from heat sources. Did you know that an artificial tree can burn (smolder) and produce toxic gases? These toxic gases can kill you. The important point here is check your tree lights for broken wires and missing bulbs, keep the tree away from all heat and flame sources and prevent all fires.
A trip to Mill Hollow Christmas Tree Farm can lead to many more return visits for your family! When you are old and gray and with grandchildren on your knee, you will probably tell them how you went to a Texas farm called Mill Hollow for a real Christmas tree and yelled "timber". After all, these memories are very important especially to future generations.
See you at Mill Hollow!