AGNEW — It’s late on a misty Sunday morning and vehicles line up five deep in the moist earthen driveway, carrying U-cut Christmas trees fresh from the field.
The evergreen scent of holiday-season memories hangs in the wet chill somewhere between a cedar wreath under construction and a Noble fir in the back of a pickup truck.
Steve Johnson knows it’s time to hop to it. He hustles over to greet his customers with a smile, helping his staff measure trees to calculate their cost.
Johnson, owner of Lazy J Tree Farm, the North Olympic Peninsula’s largest grower of U-cut Christmas trees at 225 Gehrke Road, has been running the family operation since he was 16, after his father, George, died in 1970.
“I didn’t do a very good job of it, but here I am,” Johnson jokes.
George K. Johnson, a logger, in 1956 bought the first acreage of what is today an 85-acre farm bounded on the west by Siebert Creek.
George Johnson planted 10 acres in strawberries and eight acres of raspberries.
“He planted Christmas trees down the middle of the strawberry rows,” Johnson fondly recalls, talking about what became his dad’s first U-cut and wholesale tree crop. As the strawberry plants faded, the yuletide trees thrived. And endured.
The farm is still a family operation, with Johnson’s son, Graeme, 19, and daughter, Hailey, 15, still around to help. Johnson’s mother, Eloise, still lives on the farm, as does his sister, Bonnie Cassidy, who just built a new home right in the middle of the farm and was helping her brother Sunday.
Eloise Johnson, now in her 80s, still helps Johnson’s other sister, Robin Miletich, who owns Country Aire Natural Foods store, 117 E. First St., in Port Angeles.
————–The rest of the story appears in the Monday Peninsula Daily News Jefferson County edition. Click on SUBSCRIBE, above, to get the PDN delivered to your home or office.