‘Tis the season

Senior Grant Meert shares his experience working at his family’s tree farm


Mia Meert

Senior Grant Meert prepares to throw a white pine Christmas tree through a netting machine. Of the many species of trees, Meert Tree Farm grows — including Scotch pine, Norway spruce, Virginia pine, Fraser fir and Michigan Scotch pine — Meert’s favorite is white pine. “Picking your tree gives people a good experience. It’s something that everyone needs to do at least once,” Meert said. “It gives customers a family memory and bonding time. I like having that time [with my family], and [we] make it a whole day.”

The holiday season means something different for everyone. For some, a time to be with family and friends. For others, a time of remembrance and tradition. For senior Grant Meert, the holiday season is “go time.”

As winter approaches, Meert gears up to work at his family farm — Meert Tree Farm — founded in 1963 by his grandfather and located in Festus, Mo. Meert Tree Farm offers its customers farm-fresh pine, spruce trees and holiday decorations. 

Meert’s family begins mentally preparing for tree season a few weeks prior to stay vigilant in the early mornings. While Meert’s father typically wakes up early for work, other family members must condition themselves to the early rise, using up to four alarms on weekends before making the hour-long drive to the farm and arriving by 8 a.m.

“I like the culture on the farm. Everybody is so tight-knit. Every morning, somebody brings breakfast. While preparing and getting gas in all the tractors, it’s nice talking to people,” Meert said. “Going to the farm is like a culture shock to me sometimes. For instance, there’s one guy in particular: a big dude with a big beard and long hair, and he’s talking unintelligibly, but [is] one of the nicest people. It’s a big change from the St. Louis suburban area. It’s big country living down there.”

Like many households during the holiday season, Meert Tree Farm has its traditions. Meert’s favorite traditions are centered around his specialty on the farm: the baling room. 

“The person, my grandpa, started the farm with was named Uncle Ed. Even though he wasn’t related to anyone, we all called him Uncle Ed. He gave everyone nicknames, so written around the baling room, you see names like ‘Kevin spot’ — the guy’s name is Kyle. There are small stories written in Sharpie all across the baling room; it’s cool to see the traditions that came from them,” Meert said. 

Meert takes trees cut from the field to the baling room and shakes the dead needles off of them. He then sends the tree through the netting machine, securing the branches for transport. After this, he helps carry the tree to the customer’s car and attaches it to the roof. 

“When you throw a tree through the netting, it’s a tradition to shout ‘git it.’ At the end of the day, we write down on the beams how many trees we [netted] that day. I like writing notes at the end with the Sharpie,” Meert said. “Opening week — right after Thanksgiving — is always the busiest. Last year on Black Friday, we sold 700 trees, 200 more than the previous record.” 

Senior Grant Meert shakes dead needles from a Christmas tree cut from Meert Tree Farm’s fields. While Meert Tree Farm was initially located in Oakville, Mo., in 1980, the business relocated to Festus, Mo. “At Meert Tree Farm, you cut down your own tree from our fields. We have people on tractors bring it from the fields to a barn where I and a couple [of] others work. After that, we’ll shake the dead needles off the trees and send them through into netting machines. Then, we carry them out to people’s cars,” Meert said. (Deborah Meert)

Although the work is a defining part of Meert’s experience on the farm, he also finds interactions between himself and customers have built his character.

“The farm is a unique part about me that helps shape who I am. Doing customer service has taught me to talk better with others, and I’m proud of that. It shapes my family dynamic. Every time I get with my dad’s side of the family, the farm is a big topic of conversation. My family revolves around our business,” Meert said. 

In addition to shaping his family’s dynamic, the farm also holds much weight in Meert’s view of the holiday season. 

“The holiday season is go, go, go. It’s completely separate from the rest of the year. When I was younger, I was so excited; it was my favorite time of year. I loved going to the farm and cutting down our trees. Now that I’m working more, I can get sick of listening to Christmas music 8 hours a day, but it still brings me that joy and Christmas spirit,” Meert said. 

Since its founding, Meert Tree Farm has seen three generations of the family. It holds much sentimental value for Meert due to its connection to his late grandfather’s memory.   

“My grandma lives down at the farm, and a couple of years ago, my grandpa — who started the farm — passed away. The farm allows me to hang on to those memories I had with him before that, and that is just really neat,” Meert said.