Community Feature Local Tree Farmers Carry on Family Tradition Spanning More Than a Century
Just like the trees they sell, Woods Tree Farm has literally grown from the ground up – beginning with the seed of an idea that sprouted in 2003 and growing steadily for the past 16 years. Proprietors Dennis and Bev Woods offer more than 150 varieties of trees, along with landscaping advice and homegrown vegetables, from their farm north of Clearwater, Kan.
It’s no wonder this tree farm is thriving, given their rich family history. Seven generations of Dennis’ family have been farmers, and Bev’s family plant nursery businesses go back to before her family immigrated to the US from Lisse, Holland.
Family History Fact
Piet DeRee, Bev’s father, is a Dutch immigrant who lived through the Nazi occupation in Holland. He founded DeRee Nursery and his brother founded Dutch’s Greenhouse, both in south Wichita. In Holland, the DeRee family just celebrated their business’ 100thanniversary and are one of the largest exporters of tulip bulbs in the world.
As Dennis and Bev were cleaning up a family farm in 2003, her dad had a vision of something greater. He said to them, “You know, this would be a perfect place for a tree farm.” And as they say, the rest is history.
Today, their principal business is in planting, growing, and harvesting trees for sale when they “caliper up.” It takes patience. Trees come in all varieties with their own speed of development. Some trees, such as an Autumn Blaze Maple, their best-seller because of its brilliant fall color, require two to three years before harvesting. In contrast, it may be 10 or 15 years before they dig up an Oak or a Tupelo Black Gum tree.
“Then, you’ve got the fast ones, where you can’t keep up,” Bev adds. “Take a Willow, for instance. You can pot it, and about two to three months later, it’s coming out of the pot and you’ve got to pot it up again! It grows crazy-fast.”
In their day-to-day operations, Dennis and Bev rely on SKT High-Speed Internet and Phone services. Their Internet connection allows them to communicate with customers, process orders, transmit design plans to clients, and conduct research. To streamline communication and avoid a long list of return calls, Bev “rolls the phones” to one of their cell phones while they’re outside working. If you miss the customer and make them wait too long, Dennis acknowledged, they’re going to move on to another opportunity. That’s why they appreciate that SKT is always “all over it” anytime an issue comes up, though rare.
“I am very happy with the services provided by SKT,” Dennis said. “The broadband has been very, very good – and compared to what I’ve had elsewhere, it’s exceptional!”
Family History Fact
Dennis’ mother, Judy, worked as a switchboard operator at SKT in the 1950s, starting when she was still in high school. Dennis says she always spoke very highly of the relationship she had with SKT, and “of course that has transferred to us,” he adds.
At Woods Tree Farm, customers are family and family comes first. They enjoy working with people and take pride in watching their stock grow into beautiful, healthy, and mature trees. Some of their favorite projects include the Mt. Hope City Park, the Cherese Woods Development with Lange Realty, and a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home. The beautiful landscaping and plantings at the SKT Lee and Gorin offices in Clearwater were also completed by Woods Tree Farm.
Dennis and Bev have diversified their revenue stream to keep busy year-round. Fall – the best time to move trees when they’re dormant – is “crazy-busy” with deliveries and installations. Wintertime gives them a bit of a break, followed by maintenance of their stock and planting for future harvest. It slows down with the trees in the heat of summer – their “weeding and watering” period. They also fill their downtime in the bitter cold of winter or heat of summer with advising clients on landscaping and planning for future installations.
Within the last three years, their vegetable garden has expanded, and they began selling from a little stand right in front of the farm. This summer they harvested over 50 pounds of tomatoes per day, along with peppers, squash, sweet onions, cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumbers, and pumpkins. The pumpkins are mainly for decoration and a special treat for kids to pick their own while mom and dad look at trees.
It appears that Dennis and Bev had been preparing for that 2003 challenge from Piet all of their lives. Dennis grew up driving tractors, probably a little too young at 7 or 8, he admits, and continued farming through college.
“I really like seeing things grow, and I guess that’s the farm background in me,” Dennis reflects. “The old adage, ‘You can take the boy off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy’ is true.”
Even as they worked in the corporate world and started a family, he always knew they’d eventually get back to the area, he recalled. The couple has roots that have grown deep into the land, their family, and their home. While they take on the bulk of the work running the business, Dennis and Bev have help from their eldest, Ian, and some part-time high school students.
Just as at SKT, personal service is one of the hallmarks of Woods Tree Farm. They offer onsite home visits, open phone lines, and one-on-one time. Their goal is to be the people you trust for all things trees and landscaping. In some cases, they’ve served three or four generations of a family, and that’s what it’s all about.
“What we’ve always said from the get-go is that – probably much like SKT – we want to provide a value to our customers, which for us is a really a high-quality tree, second-to-none, at a reasonable price,” Dennis said.
Visit Woods Tree Farm at 5201 S. 119th St. W., Clearwater, Kan., or call 620.545.7124.