You only have to travel 3 miles north of Morris to get a North Pole experience. Wayne-N-Jean’s Evergreens is your one stop shop for everything Christmas. From trees to wreaths, photo ops, and a holiday gift shop all located north of Morris just off of highway 59.
Wayne and Jean Lesmeister never thought they would be starting a business in 1995 when they planted their first evergreen trees. They decided to plant evergreen trees on a parcel of marginal land, which they thought would benefit their farm by providing a windbreak and control erosion.
As those evergreens grew into beautiful trees they thought about digging some trees for landscaping projects in the area. Wayne and Slim Hokanson tried digging up a few trees by hand with shovels, and putting them in burlap to sell. After only a few trees, Wayne decided this was too labor intensive so he spoke with his neighbor Larry Kleespie who owned a tree spade. He mentioned to Larry if he ever wanted to sell the equipment, Wayne would be interested. After two years, Larry drove into the yard with the spade and showed him how to run the equipment. Larry also had a job lined up for Wayne which was at the home of Albert Joos near Hancock.
The tree moving business grew and so did the tree farm. Eventually Wayne and Jean expanded the planting area to 65 acres and they now have 4 spade trucks and a skid loader spade. What started as a hobby had now become a business.
After the first planting of trees had become established, Wayne and Jean decided to expand the business by selling Christmas trees in 2000. Today, you can come and cut down your own tree or select a fresh-cut tree from the shop.
Wayne and Jean’s 2 children, Lloyd and Kayla, grew up on the farm. They were involved in many of the daily tasks on the tree farm and helped with local jobs. Today, the kids are grown, Kayla is a psychologist in Utah and Lloyd is directly involved in the tree farm. He also works for a local farm and swine operation. In 2020 Lloyd married Courtney Greiner, Courtney works full-time at the Hancock school and in the tree business on nights, weekends, and summers. In 2021 Lloyd and Courtney welcomed their daughter Ellary.
As the business continued to grow, Wayne retired from the West Central Experiment Station where he had worked for 33 years, to devote more of his time to growing and moving trees. Jean is still at her job working at Dacotah Bank, and helps on the farm.
In the spring, new seedlings arrive on the farm. The Lesmeister family becomes busy with tree planting. Bare root evergreens, fruit trees, maples, elms, and lots of other leaf bearing trees are planted on the farm or at customers’ properties. Some bare root trees are also planted in a sand bed on the tree farm. This allows the trees to grow in the spring and then can be easily removed anytime during the spring, summer, or fall to be sold to customers. Lloyd explained that the sand bed is great because it encourages greater root growth than a pot. In a pot, the roots can become root bound, but the sand bed increases fibrous roots making for better success in the transplanting process. Also in the spring, Christmas tree lots are replanted. A new Christmas tree is planted where a large tree once stood the previous holiday season. The new Christmas tree plants will take about 7 years before they are large enough to sell.
During the summer, Christmas trees are trimmed in a process called shearing. Together the family, with large serrated knives, shear each individual Christmas tree. As the summer goes on trees are watered, fertilized and deciduous trees are pruned to be moved with a spade truck.
Near the beginning of November the farm transitions from tree moving and landscape projects to Christmas trees. The shop is set up, at one end the Christmas gift shop is loaded up with holiday items and decor. The middle of the shop is full of pre-cut trees of many varieties, and the other end is a workshop for decorating wreaths, garland, and porch pots. Through the years since beginning selling Christmas trees in 2000, the Lesmeisters have been blessed with great help with decorating. Wayne’s aunt Carol, Corrine Z. Erickson, Tessa Marlow, and now Courtney’s grandmother Marcia Greiner have all been a great help during the holiday season.
The shop also hosts decorating classes where groups can come in and spend an afternoon or evening decorating their own wreaths or porch pots. Wayne explained that sometimes the room is full of laughter as groups bring their own food, beverages, and talents to decorate. Courtney is on hand to help classes select from a large assortment of ribbons, branches, and decorations. Wayne and Lloyd will order wreaths and garland to get started for the season and as the season carries on they will make their own wreaths and garland using up greens from trees out in the field that may be less desirable as a christmas tree. Nearly every part of the tree is used in some way at the farm. Wayne said that even needles are swept up and used as mulch to put around baby seedlings to help them grow.
Every holiday season the farm opens for business the weekend before Thanksgiving and is open every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Christmas Eve. Families love to come out and not only experience picking out a tree, but also some of the unique photo opportunities there. These include an old ‘50 Chevy pickup driven during the Parade of Lights, a wooden sleigh with reindeer on the walls, and ready to purchase Christmas decor. You can browse through everything while sipping on some hot apple cider.
A visit to Wayne-N-Jean’s Evergreens can be very special for families or groups. There is so much more than just trees. The Lesmeisters provide a tree farm that is a truly family run business that appreciates all of its customers whether you purchase a tree in the summer or a Christmas tree during the holiday season. And the best part is that the drive to get a North Pole experience is just a little bit shorter and much, much warmer.