Poynter’s Tree Farm looks forward to another holiday season after 51 years

Bonnie Poynter started the tree farm 51 years ago with her late husband, Robert. She is seen here in one of her favorite rooms in the Christmas shop: the Nutcracker room filled with nutcrackers from Germany. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

Santas and Christmas decorations color Bonnie Poynter’s living room a nice holiday shade of red. But it’s no comparison to the green of the family tree farm or the glitter that catches the lights ever so gently from inside their Christmas shop.

Poynter’s Tree Farm has been in business now for 51 years, an accomplishment reserved only for the most resilient of business owners.

It all started in 1967, two years after the family moved to their home on U.S. Rt. 13 south of Felton, when the eldest daughter of Robert and Mrs. Poynter, Jean, decided to go to college.

“And she had chosen to go to a private college rather than one that was less expensive,” Mrs. Poynter said. “Dad laughed at her. And I said, ‘Well, I know how I’m going to do it. I’m going to plant Christmas trees and sell them.”

That first year, the family planted 1,000 Christmas trees.

“She and her father went back and planted them. They would drink a cup of coffee and plant a couple of trees… drink a cup of coffee, and plant a couple of trees,” she said.

Her daughter Robin Achenbach, who now runs the Christmas Shop for the family, laughed.

“Mom! That’s not how dad told the story,” she roared while pointing out a newspaper clipping. “He says they planted 50 trees, drank a beer, smoked a cigarette and planted 50 more.”

Mrs. Poynter nodded, saying, “Well, that’s exactly what transpired. And every year after that, we planted more trees until we now have 70,000, 100,000. . .”

Although the exact number of Christmas trees now growing on the family’s two tree farms is unknown, but they have enough to supply customers new and old with the Christmas tree of their dreams each year.

“In 51 years, the trees have helped give us the unity of our family and not only our personal family, but our business family. We have the most heartwarming, wonderful customers that one could ever dream of having. We have people that travel all the way from Tangier Island to get their Christmas tree here, others who travel all the way from Chincoteague to here,” she recalled of some of her customers.

“And we have a family from Sussex County, Seaford area. . . the great-grandfather of that group now comes here every year. And every year there’s more, 40 now maybe. They come here and get a family picture here. They choose their trees and wreaths and they leave them. And they go to the Dover Mall and shop and they come back around 7 o’clock. And every year there’s a new one added. It’s such a heartwarming thing. That’s what Christmas is all about.”

Mrs. Poynter has her own holiday memories she holds dear.

“From the time I was about five years old, my grandfather carved me a Santa. I always kept it in my pockets — of my jacket, dress, but not jeans, because girls couldn’t wear jeans back then. When I got married, somehow he got lost. I shed a few tears, but nevertheless, Santa was a big deal in my life,” she recalled.

Her dad, a commercial fisherman by trade with a general merchandise store and trucks on the road for the farm, helped carry on the Santa legacy by finding time to play Santa for their community.

“He had the most loving heart,” she said. “Anything you outgrew, it was never a rag. It was given to somebody. My mother and father lived a Christian life. And they exemplified it to us. They let each and every one of us know that you needed to help others. My mother and father were such teachers to all of us. We learned to take care of our environment, too.”

Mrs. Poynter and the family she and her husband grew took those life lessons and built a business to sustain themselves.

“It’s an amazing feeling to help with the shop,” Mrs. Achenbach said as she pointed out each section of Santas and ornaments. “There’s not a customer that I know of that leaves here without being wished a Merry Christmas.”

Poynter’s Tree Farm and Christmas shop is open daily from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. They can be reached at 302-284-4801.

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