Harvesting the past and harnessing the future

Posted on Sep 27 2019 in Boone REMC
The Dull family poses in front of one of its historic barns located on the property.

One truth in life is that everything changes. Many are reluctant to change, but others embrace it and make the most of it. That is the story for Dull’s Tree Farm and the next generation of “farmers.” In its fifth year of fall festival activities, the 27-year old Christmas tree farm has grown to include more for families and more for the future. 

“When I started researching agritourism, I got excited,” Lucas Dull said. “I knew we could do more. We could take what we started and grow and diversify it.”

Lucas Dull is the son of Tom and Kerry Dull, who started selling Christmas trees commercially in 1993.  Now a father himself, he is thinking of the future of Dull’s Tree Farm and how to grow it for his own three daughters. So every year at this time, he is busy innovating with his family. His sister, Erin, joined the team this year, along with 70 part-time employees. 

“We’ve got some new things this year,” Dull said. “We have the combine playground, wall ball, big games (like Connect 4), and a pumpkin and Christmas tree themed Mr. Potato Head.”

New food is on the menu this year: Bavarian pretzels and pulled pork sandwiches complete with slaw and Mac and cheese. However, the apple cider slushies and doughnuts will continue to be a staple. 

“The new ideas are a combination of imagination and visiting other farms and going to conferences to see what is working,” Dull said. “We really want to create a venue for people to come out and get away from the hustle and bustle, which is basically our mission: to give memorable experiences through excellent service.”

The corn maze theme for this year will convey the mission as well. This year’s design honors the late Tyler Trent, Purdue hero for pediatric cancer. The Dulls have pledged support for a cause close to their own heart. Lucas’ sister-in-law is currently in remission from pediatric cancer, and the family has vowed to give proceeds, as well as service, to Riley and Peyton Manning Children’s hospitals. 

“We have come to understand that the maze is a platform to raise awareness and get information out to the public,” Dull said. “Every year it is a blank slate. Next year it could be totally different, but we always try to do something relatable for our customer base and something that makes a connection with us and our family.”

Part of that connection is faith. The Dull family has worked to keep stewardship among its core values and that is why they will do things like selling Trent’s book in the bookstore and donate proceeds toward research endowments. 

“Our family is faith-based, and we want it to be evident when people come out here,” Dull said. “People ask my dad all the time if he owns this, and he will often say ‘Nope, God owns it; we are just managing it.’ It’s why we don’t have Santa here at Christmas time. We want people to see the true meaning of Christmas.”

These values are being passed down to Dull’s three daughters, who can often be seen alongside the family as they work the farm, like over four generations of Dulls have done. 

“I think that if my grandfather could see what the farm has become, he would be happy to see the generations that followed him are still making a living off the same farm,” Tom Dull said.

Lucas Dull’s great grandfather was an agriculture teacher who grew vegetables on the farm. His grandfather grew soybeans, corn, wheat and raised hogs. And now, his father and he are continuing the small farm but allowing others to take part in the experience. 

“I think as the increase of separation from the farm grows, it does become more of a draw to get away from the suburb and enjoy a new experience,” Lucas said. 

And he is right. In the last five years, visitors have increased from 3,800 to 25,000. The Christmas tree farm, which is well-established in the community, sells over 5,500 trees and every year they run out. 

The farm also includes other amenities for visitors. The bed and breakfast sleeps six on the property and the reception hall hosts bridal and baby showers and is opening up for Christmas parties this year as well. 

Dull’s Tree Farm is located in Thorntown just off State Road 39. 

Dull’s Tree Farm in Thorntown received the John Arnold Award for Rural Preservation from Indiana Landmarks and Indiana Farm Bureau.