News from Abbey Farms: Rooted in Tradition, We’re Growing Family Memories

January 13th, 2017

Welcome to our blog! Follow along as we share the news and stories of Abbey Farms. In the months and years ahead, you’ll experience the issues – good and bad – inherent in growing our trees from small seedlings to your perfect Christmas tree. We’ll share the ups and downs of farming, of hosting events and of building a vital nonprofit organization through agritourism.

People on Abbey Farms tractor

Stop in to meet our full-time staff! Left to right is Jackie Rakers, Jeff Kus, Wendy Felder, Eric Mott and Adam Voirin.

You’ll meet our staff, our volunteers, the vendors and supporters we count on. Most importantly, we’ll share the stories of some of you who create your memories with us. We have an abundance of dreams and plans and our faithful readers will be some of the first to know! To launch this journey, let’s travel back to our roots.

Cows and Corn

In the 1940s, the monks of Marmion Abbey acquired the property that Abbey Farms occupies. From day one, the operation has been a nonprofit organization to benefit the monks and their mission.

The farm was originally a dairy and corn farm. The monks slowly integrated the property into a Christmas tree farm during the U.S. Government-sponsored Soil Bank project in the late 1940s to early 1950s. And, the Abbey has not looked back since!

As you can imagine, the area surrounding Abbey Farms has changed dramatically since the first trees grown on the property were planted in 1949. Now surrounded by residential neighborhoods and paved streets, Abbey Farms takes environmental responsibility seriously.

Clean Air

If we all think back to our biology classes, we learned about photosynthesis. You remember, don’t you? It’s the process where in its simplest form, CO2 [carbon dioxide] and H2O [water] plus energy [sunlight] are converted into O2 [oxygen] and (C6H12O6) [glucose]. The oxygen goes into the air we breathe.

This makes trees and plants the air-purifiers for the earth. At Abbey Farms, our Christmas tree fields convert enough carbon dioxide into oxygen for over 2,100 people yearly!

In its heyday, Abbey Farms sold over 10,000 you-cut Christmas trees each year. This lasted until the early 2000s when the farm began a slow decline. A tree epidemic necessitated the destruction of 20,000 to 30,000 trees. Add in the challenge of farming in the center of residential neighborhoods and an ageing monk population, tree sales dwindled to about 1,300 a year.

Ushering in Change

Abbot Vincent Bataille O.S.B., the president of Marmion Abbey and Abbey Farms knew a change was necessary – and soon. During the resulting search for ideas, Father Michael Burrows O.S.B., thought of one of his past students, Adam Voirin, who has a degree in landscape architecture from Ball State. It made sense to pick up the phone to see if Adam would consider taking over the reins to revitalize. He did say yes! Eight short years later, this sole-source of income Christmas tree farm transformed into a multi-faceted business. It encompasses Christmas trees, a pumpkin farm, seasonal produce store and most recently, a rustic-chic rental venue ¬– with the seeds for more just taking root.

Fast Forward…

Today, Abbey Farms employs five full-time staff and a team of seasonal workers and volunteers that make sure every dollar earned goes to good use at Marmion Abbey. The good news keeps coming! We grew more pumpkins than ever before in 2016 (60,000 pounds were sold) and are already exploring what specialty pumpkins to add to the mix next year. Purple or blue perhaps?! And, the Pumpkin Daze festival that focuses on old fashion farm fun continues to enjoy year over year growth, with over 32,000 visitors in 2016!

Abbey Farms Christmas tree sales have rebounded to over 7,500 trees a year and continue to climb. We’re planting more seedlings each year, which means you’ll find a better selection of trees to choose from in the years ahead. Keep in mind, a tree can take up to 15 years to grow to a sellable height, so please practice patience. Those 11,000+ seedlings we planted last spring are going to need some growing time…

Name Our Blog!

We’d love it if our readers would give us some naming ideas for this blog. We’d like to make it fun, unique and reflect our venue. What say you? Add your thoughts to this post or head over to our Facebook page and give us your suggestion(s). Brainstorm away!