If you drive down Barber Hill Road in South Windsor, you are bound to spot Dzen Tree Farm. It’s hard to miss. While there are four tree farms located on the road, John Dzen and his family’s location is eye-catching, with a large reindeer and sled standing proudly just outside of the entrance.
For many, reindeer elicit fantastic memories of imagining Santa Claus dashing across the sky on Christmas Eve in a grand red sleigh. Leading the mystical vehicle, no matter in children’s books or movies, are reindeer. As far as Christmastime goes, reindeer have a reputation for being a pivotal part of festivities.
For John, reindeer are also a big deal. Not only is his tree farm the only one with a grand entrance, his is the only one that has real reindeer that call the farm home. “People want value. But they really want to be entertained and they want to be educated and that’s really what it’s all about. Everyone thinks that reindeer are this mythical cartoon animal and they’re not.”
Jack, Noelle and Belle enchant guests at Dzen Tree Farm year after year. Children from all around will come with their families to witness the creatures known for guiding Santa and dancing across rooftops. Reindeer are rare in New England, making the mere sight of them in person an unforgettable holiday activity.
While the reindeer are famous for being a part of the tree farm, they are also movie stars. The three reindeer starred in the Hallmark original Christmas movie “Romance at Reindeer Lodge” in 2017.
But it’s not all about the reindeer. Dzen Tree Farm has an expanse of trees in all sizes. Each one is grown with love and care all year long. “There’s a lot more going on here than anyone understands. If you have one flowerbed in front of your home, and you can’t prune your shrubs, you can’t pick your dead flowers off, you can’t control the weeds and the mulch…well, we’re doing that on 60 acres. It’s the same thing you’re struggling with at home, but we’re just doing it a lot bigger. It is year-round and full time, keeping everyone busy.”
Upon entering the farm, guests are offered a saw that is loaned for use in cutting down their very own family tree. Families are then free to wander about the tree farm to hunt down the perfect tree to hold their ornaments this season. After the perfect tree has been chosen, families return to the front to have it prepared for travels home. For those in a bit of a rush, the farm also offers pre-cut trees. John shared that it’s a wonderful feeling to know a Dzen Tree Farm tree is a major part of several family festivities each year.
Shortly after the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Dzen family began their business. “We have different parts of the family in different parts of the business. We have been in business about twenty years. The family has been doing this for a real long time.”
The longevity of their efforts shows after setting foot on the tree farm. While Dzen’s vast selection of cut-your-own Christmas trees is impressive, the entire location creates a genuine holiday experience. As you drive down the broad driveway, it’s hard to miss Super Santa, a product of Bronner’s Christmas Store in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Next to the giant statue is a classic nativity scene, a large sled and John’s brand-new arch of reindeer antlers. A step into the center feels like walking into a snow globe, and that is John’s goal.
“We always try to do a little something special; something that you can’t get in a store. We always want to have that personal touch and that something extra.”
Super Santa has become an icon on the South Windsor tree farm over the years. John never knows where he will see Dzen Tree Farm represented next. “We show up in the oddest places because of people taking pictures. You’ll go to someone’s house that you really don’t know and your Super Santa is on the refrigerator, and it’s like ‘Yeah, I’m that guy.’” John shared that Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut reached out to him to take a selfie with the holly jolly character. “When I got the call, I thought I might’ve been in trouble! I told him to come on down.”
Being a part of Dzen Tree Farm is truly a family effort. John’s son, Daniel Dzen, owns Podunk Popcorn. Daniel grows and dries the ears of corn used for his jarred popcorn kernels on the tree farm property. John’s wife, Jennifer Dzen, creates handmade, personalized ornaments and decorates wreaths starting in the summer to ensure they are ready to go for the holiday season. Families are welcome to enjoy treats such as hot chocolate, cookies and coffee during their outing.
John shared, “When you’re shopping for a tree, you can have a tree. Or you can have an outing, an experience. Everybody wants value but nobody really cares anymore. We are promoting that you stay out of the mall. Nothing good has ever happened at the mall, ever, and come out on the farm and spend some time with your family. Make a day of it. Come and get a lunch, and make it a family outing. Get back to the old fashion values. That’s really what we want you to do.”
Year-round, John has the farm and reindeer on his brain. He is constantly running around the farm, writing information on a small sheet of paper in his pocket. New ideas such as the antler arch are always brewing, including a wooden reindeer decoration he created last year using a tuft of reindeer fur as the tail.
With trees filling the property and Christmas icons residing on it, professional photographers frequently use Dzen Tree Farm during the holidays as a setting to bring Christmas cheer to family photos.
During our interview, John excitedly opened a package that had just arrived. Inside were brand new harnesses for the reindeer in eye-catching colors. It’s clear to see the animals are not only features of the farm, but loved as a part of the Dzen family.
The Dzen family welcomes guests to come take part in the magic of the holidays and the brilliance of unplugging from the world to spend quality family time. “That’s what it’s all about. Spend time with your family. Turn off electronic devices and unplug. Come out to the farm, hold hands, laugh, it’s really what life is about. Life has turned into something I really don’t understand.”
There’s something magical about being on Dzen Tree Farm. I would typically find light snowfall to be inconvenient during an interview. But when it started falling in mid-November during Go Local’s visit, it only ignited the spark of Christmas spirit that Dzen Tree Farm brought to me. I’d be lying if I said having a conversation about reindeer and Super Santa didn’t leave me singing Christmas carols all the way home.
Dzen Tree Farm opened for the season on November 23.They will remain open through the end of the holidays daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Dzen Tree Farm • 215 Barber Hill Rd • South Windsor, CT
860-648-2233 • DzenTreeFarm.com