History of the Farm
Oney’s Tree Farm was one of the first properties taken out of Indian Territory in 1837. By 1839 the first barn was up and the front half of the existing home was inhabited. The 1840 county assessor taxed extra fees for horses and a clock.
After an infamous period of liquor storage in the barn during prohibition, Oney and Ella Nienhuis purchased the farm in the 40’s, housing chickens in the coop and cows in the barn. But dairy never paid the bills, and Oney took on a second job as a mail carrier.
Driving his route one day, he noticed a small grove of Christmas trees and Ella claims he heard, ‘bells and whistles.” His first field of trees came to maturity in the 1960’s for harvest-your-own families.
Ella was creative as well, hand-making wreaths and pottery ornaments in a little store inside the 1904 barn which is listed on the Historic Register for McHenry County.
We bought the farm in 1984 after my husband, Ron Peterson, insisted he always wanted to grow Christmas trees.
Of course, I thought he was crazy.
But Ron and Oney were very similar with a farmer’s focused optimism and vision of the future centered around family. Being able to drive a tractor every day with a deep reverence for nature didn’t hurt either. Being a trained electrician, my husband scoffed at my concern over his lack of horticulture knowledge with his hard work ethic.
Ron’s passion won me over, but it took both of us working two jobs and another decade before the farm stood on its own. The most important thing is that he never, ever missed another Little League game, ballet performance or school function.
After a few years, we both realized that Christmas sales never paid the bills, so we diversified into growing landscape material.
Now, our son Scott handles the wholesale end of the business, while I do limited spring and fall retail nursery sales. I love the design process and take great satisfaction helping others create beautiful outdoor spaces. We also provide delivery and planting services.
Daughter Michelle is becoming active in the Christmas end of our family business. Our grandsons are learning how to serve food in the bakery and work the cash registers as we jump into the next generation. We look forward to the future, using our daughter-in-law’s creative ideas and our son-in-law’s enthusiasm to continue this legacy.
Come join our family and celebrate an old fashioned Christmas at Oney’s Tree Farm, where family memories and traditions begin. Or take one of our beloved trees home to beautify your home.