‘Explore East Hampton’ hike visits local Christmas tree farm

By Merja H. Lehtinen - ReminderNews
East Hampton - posted Mon., Dec. 2, 2013
Jessie Hazen (left) and her adult children including Kris Haswell greeted visitors, while daughter Kathy (Hazen) Downey (in red) led the guided tour. Photo courtesy of Marty Podskoch. - Contributed Photo

A tiny Christmas tree farm on just a few bucolic acres atop a hill overlooking East Hampton's lake district has produced thousands of Christmas trees and memories that span generations of families. East Hampton residents and visitors recently explored the Hazen Tree Farm - with its curiously-named fields ranging from Sally Field to W.C. Field - with members of the family that has owned the land for the last half century.

About 25 people took the “Explore East Hampton” walk on Sunday, Dec. 1, despite a light mist falling. There are still four generations of Hazens actively living, working, or just playing on the property, as the youngest, 4-year-old great-grandchild Wyatt, was on the farm that day. Grandchildren Ashton, Susan, Martha and Hannah were on hand guiding vehicles, making cocoa, and keeping the bonfire in check.

Jessie Hazen's generation in East Hampton migrated south from Vermont after World War II, she said. The family's matriarch and nonagenarian said she and her husband left their family farms in Vermont for a job he was offered at Pratt & Whitney. She still hosts Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with her adult children, their children, and the four great-grandchildren every year. "Christmas means a family gathering to us," said Jessie Hazen. Both she and her husband were originally from farming families in Vermont and as self-described "Swamp Yankees" descended from Lynn and Plymouth, Mass., communities of the 1600s. According to one of the daughters, Kathy Hazen Downey, they are also related to Samuel Hale, one of the founders of Hartford.

The day was a also a neighborhood reunion of sorts that included newcomer Marty Podskoch, coordinator of the “Explore East Hampton” walking tours, and Don Burr, another descendant of early founders of Hartford and long-time East Hampton resident.

Guests learned that a Christmas tree farm has six working seasons that include every stage from planting to maintaining, and eventually harvesting the trees that adorn people's houses this time of year. The farm specializes in white spruce, but a few other varieties are available as well. They offer help cutting trees down, wrapping them with plastic, and loading them on vehicles. "Even mother did it until a few years ago," said Kathy Downey.

Podkoch, who hosts the walks and gives brief presentations before they start, said the group is planning "cabin fever" programs for mid-winter when weather is too unpredictable to plan walks outdoors. For more details, contact him at podskoch@comcast.net, call 860-267-2442 or visit http://www.easthamptonrec.com/info/activities/program_details.aspx?Progr....

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