By Nina Wu
Oh, Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, thy leaves are so unchanging...Not only green when summer's here, but also when it's cold and drear...
Shopping for a Christmas tree takes on new meaning when you visit an actual farm and see the trees that are growing out of the ground up close. That's why the trip to Helamano Farms on Whitmore Avenue in Wahiawa was worth the drive the weekend after Thanksgiving (and honestly, it's not that bad, as long as there's no traffic).
Thanksgiving in Hawaii this year was rainy, so the red dirt was still a bit soggy, but it was nevertheless fun to walk between the rows of Norfolk pines, exploring the Leyland cypresses and new this year — silver-blue Carolina Sapphires and evergreen Japanese Yoshino cedar trees.
It was our first time visiting the farm, though it had been on my to-do list for a few years. I'm so happy we finally made it.
Our dog, Kona (a Springer spaniel mix from the Hawaiian Humane Society) and my son Brandon, 5, loved roaming the grounds. Kona loved sniffing around the tree trunks (and will remember all the smells, I'm sure). Brandon just loved running among the trees.
From the moment we parked and stepped on to the farm, we found the staff friendly and welcoming. Ezekiel Gamponia-Tyrell showed us around, helped us pick out a Leyland cypress and sawed it down. Some people wander around for more than an hour finding just the right tree. We found ours within about 15 minutes.
But you're still welcome to wander around after you've found your tree, and take photos (see my photo gallery below).
Before we knew it, Ezekiel had the tree hefted over his shoulder and headed toward checkout, then he netted it and helped load it into the back of the pickup truck.
Every year, people in Hawaii are so used to waiting in anticipation for the trees to be shipped over here from Oregon and Washington state, and picking out a tree from a parking lot. While I know some people are just wedded to the idea of the Noble fir with its particular pine scent for Christmas, a local tree makes a great alternative.
You would be cutting out the carbon pollution of shipping trees across the ocean, the risks of invasive pests, mostly yellow jacket wasps and slugs, and supporting a local, family-owned business. I think it'd be great if there was more than just one Christmas tree farm on Oahu.
As of Dec. 1 this year, 201 containers with 126,020 Christmas trees arrived in the isles, according to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, which inspects the ships upon arrival. Eleven containers were held for treatment — two had yellow jack wasps and nine had slugs.
I would say that the trip to the farm was part of the fun.
At the farm, there are also lovely, handmade Norfolk pine wreathes for $25 and homemade jellies (mountain apple, lilikoi and more) for $10.
Dogs on leashes are welcome at the farm, a wonderful part of the experience. Helemano Farms is at the end of Whitmore Ave. (turn right into the parking lot just before the military base). Hours are from noon to sunset Wednesdays through Fridays and from 10 a.m. to sunset on weekends. Prices start at $45 and up for a Norfolk pine (starting at five-feet tall), and $60 and up for Leyland cypresses and other trees. You can also find Helemano Farms on Facebook.