Although hanging lights and ornaments is an important yuletide ritual, so is acquiring the tree itself. And for many residents of Central New Jersey, that tradition involves a trip to Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary in Somerset. The 17-acre farm receives hundreds of excited tannenbaum-seekers every holiday season.
But owners Leonard (Len) Wolgast and Cathy Blumig offer much more than pines, firs, and spruces destined for living rooms. They help build a sense of connection to the land that produces those magnificent trees.
Wolgast AG’64, GSNB’67,’73 and Blumig CC’88 are both wildlife management experts as well as tree growers, relying on farming techniques that protect the biodiversity of the Raritan Watershed. They skillfully cultivate their fields so that a wide variety of animals, birds, and insects—from white-tailed deer to barn swallows to monarch butterflies—will find the farm especially welcoming. (For a good example of the Wolgast approach to wildlife, see Blumig’s blog post on white-tailed “buck rubs.”)
In 1977, Wolgast purchased land on Bennetts Lane and planted 1,000 seedlings. Seven years later, with that first crop coming to maturity, the farm officially opened to the public. Soon it expanded onto nearby acreage. Wolgast had more than profit in mind, however. Increasing his holdings meant being able to shelter more flora and fauna.
With a degree in wildlife management, Blumig shares Wolgast’s closeness to nature and its dynamics. Married in 2001, they have built a business founded on sustainability while offering a holiday attraction cherished by the community. Daily maintenance and readying a new crop can be grueling—ask Wolgast about the hornets’ nests in the summertime—but the joys outweigh the aches and pains.
Although the farm opens the day after Thanksgiving and closes mid-December, some seasons have brought as many as 3,000 tree shoppers. “We just have the nicest customers,” says Blumig, describing the pleasure of “figuring out what people want in a tree” and helping them find it. “Everyone’s taste is different, and no tree we’ve grown has ever gone to waste.”
Wolgast echoes her view of the clientele. “We have so many people who came as little kids with their parents to get a tree,” he says, “and now they’re back with their kids. And that’s very satisfying.” Often, they’re drawn by an awareness of the land’s special purpose as much as a desire for beautiful, well-cared for Christmas trees.
Year after year, Wolgast and Blumig manage to balance caring for nature and caring for people. It’s a vocation with renewable rewards—and not just for the owners, but for the customers and the inhabitants. On one level or another, they all appreciate the gifts this place gives them.
Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary has closed for the season, but you can visit the farm’s website to find out more about its biodiversity, the innovations that have made it so successful, and the people who run it.