History of Pinecrest Tree Farms

Aerial View of the Pinecrest FarmsIn 1943, when Marlin Koch, Sr. purchased 100 acres of land near his home in Schuylkill County, he had no intention of embarking on a 50+ year career as a Christmas Tree Grower. What started as a vegetable farm rapidly turned into a Christmas tree farm and continues to expand.

Marlin grew up on a dairy farm about two miles from the site of the present-day Pinecrest Tree Farms. As a married man with two young sons, he was looking for land where he could raise his family. He found 100 acres for sale and purchased the land in 1943. Although the buildings were in need of repair, Marlin’s wife, Edith agreed to move to the new location if he would “fix up the place.” In 1947, the Koch family moved to the renovated farm house.
Marlin used the land initially to plant cabbage and tomatoes. Neighbor John Bachert, who was already growing Christmas trees, advised Marlin to plant trees on the steeper slopes of his newly acquired land. In 1947, Marlin purchased 8,000 transplants and planted his first Christmas trees on the steepest portion of his farm. Scotch Pine, Norway spruce, White Spruce, and Douglas Fir were in the original order. To supplement his farm income, Marlin taught for the Schuylkill County Agricultural Extension Association, and also owned an interest in a food and beverage vending business. In 1955, Marlin’s first trees were ready for harvest.

In the early 1960’s, Pinecrest began offering B&B stock in addition to cut trees. Although Marlin didn’t want to lose the soil by digging trees, half of Pinecrest’s income is now generated from the B&B business. Several of Pinecrest’s trees are planted at the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Also, Pinecrest has supplied Rockefeller Center with Fraser Fir during the Christmas season.

From the late 1950’s through the present, Pinecrest has purchased an additional 450 acres in the surrounding area, and is currently leasing approximately 100 acres. Fraser Fir and Douglas Fir are the primary cut Christmas trees, as well as Canaan Fir, Concolor Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce, and White Pine. These trees, in addition to Norway Spruce, Serbian Spruce, Canadian Hemlock, and Arborvitae, are used for B&B.

In 1984, Marlin reluctantly transferred the business to his son, Buddy. Marlin continued to oversee and take part in production until his passing in December of 1997. Marlin’s other son, Gary, after earning a PhD in plant taxonomy from Penn State, taught Horticulture at Fresno State University from 1970 to 2000. He presently lives in the family farm house from April to December assisting Buddy in the business.

Several innovations at Pinecrest have made production more efficient over the years. Three barns were remodeled to accommodate loading of Christmas trees, so that trees can be taken from field wagons and dropped down to the trailer below. Trees are only handled twice, first when bailed in the field and placed on wagons, and finally when loaded onto the delivery trailer. The pole barn adjacent to the loading barn is used for wagon storage.

Marlin, along with long time employee Bruno Calai and Marlin’s nephew, designed a stump puller and improved an existing tree planter that are still in use today. In 1996, they also devised a tool to help with removing stones from 30 acres of newly cleared timber.

Production of Christmas trees is continually increasing. Trees are shipped along the east coast, from New England to as far as Florida. There are 12 full time employees, with an additional part-time crew during digging, shearing, and cutting season.

Call Pinecrest Tree Farms at (570) 943-2023 today!