By Sarah Neubecker Special to the Osceola Edition Christmas morning in the American household is a time of gifts, laughter and family togetherness as children and adults alike race to see what festively-wrapped gifts bear their name. As the presents are spotted, wrapping paper flies and chaos ensues, while above the action, beautifully decorated, stands a traditional holiday symbol, without which the day would not be the same. The Christmas tree could be a Douglass Fir, a Fraser Fir or maybe even a White Pine, but Christmas tree farmers across America sincerely hope it is not artificial. \u201cThe real thing is always better,\u201d said Linda Duddles, co-owner of Duddles Tree Farms in Reed City. While an artificial tree may be constructed quickly on an assembly line in another country, a real Christmas tree takes years of labor, care and maintenance, Duddles said. At Duddles Tree Farms, trees are planted as seedlings between 8 and 16 inches tall, 10 years before they are cut and used as Christmas trees. Dick Duddles, co-owner of Duddles Tree Farms, said tree planting begins in early April on his 1,500-acre farm. \u201cOne guy drives the tractor and the other guy rides the tree planter and you individually take them out of the bundles,\u201d said Duddles. On a good day, his team can plant up to 4,000 trees. On his farm, Duddles grows Scotch Pine, Blue Spruce, Douglass Fir, Fraser Fir and a few White Pine. \u201cDouglass Fir is the most popular, then Fraser Fir,\u201d Dick Duddles said. After trees are planted in a field, the team trims, fertilizes and maintains them for 10 years until they are big enough to be sold as Chistmas trees. After a field of trees is cut and used during the holiday season, the team of up to 12 employees work hard to prepare the soil for the next batch of trees. \u201cAfter a crop is off the land, we clear the land and plant some sort of cover crop,\u201d Linda Duddles said, \u201cSome kind of oats or wheat or sorghum grass to feed the soil.\u201d After a year of cover crop, the land is fertilized and ready for trees to be planted again. This cycle has continued on the Duddles farm since it first opened in 1957. Duddles opens to the public every year starting the day after Thanksgiving, and sells fresh-cut trees as well as cut-it-yourself trees at an average price of $40 per tree. \u201cThe retail time is the most fun time when you get to actually meet and deal with the people who are going to put the trees in their house,\u201d Dick Duddles said. Duddles said when customers come to buy Christmas trees, their decision to go out and cut their own tree or choose one that has already been cut depends largely on the weather. \u201cIf the weather is nice, they like to go to the field.\u201d Duddles said. \u201cIf it\u2019s cold and snowy and the wind\u2019s blowing, they want to get a tree quick and go.\u201d Though there are some factors of a Christmas tree that are appealing to most people, the perfect Christmas tree looks different for each person. Duddles said a woman came to his farm last year and asked for the wildest tree he had. \u201cI showed her some pretty wild ones that hadn\u2019t been trimmed in about 3 years and she said, \u2018 I want one wilder than that.\u2019\u201d Even though different people have different idea of what \u2018the perfect tree\u2019 looks like, they all want the tree to stand up straight. \u201cThe thing that people dislike the most is a crooked tree,\u201d Duddles said. He said every once in a while he grows what he calls a \u201cbanana tree, \u201d a tree that grows in a semi circle and look like a banana. \u201cThose don\u2019t sell too well.\u201d Along with selling between 500-600 trees in retail each year, Duddles Farms also ships 10,000 trees at wholesale to companies in Utah, Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Florida and Georgia. When the season is over, Dick and Linda take a much-needed break from the busy season in their line of work. After a few months of rest, the crew starts work on the fields again, preparing to bring a symbol of Christmas cheer to hearts and homes for years to come.