With marketing pester power going into overdrive at this time of year it is all too easy to lose sight of what is meaningful. Christmas should be a time for appreciation, special occasions and celebrating what we have with who we love. Since Victorian times the fir tree adorned with lights and decorations has signaled the start of Christmas. Having a Christmas tree as the centre point for our festivities is something most of us take for granted, but not many people know that their production involves a painstaking ten year commitment of care, nurturing and plain hard work. Now, that requires patience in spades…Steve Westley-Smith, Owner of the Littlefield Farm, in Harpenden talks to us about how he evolved his produce to meet the changing needs of his community, and how his passion for tree care and conservation has taken him all the way to Number 10 Downing Street.
Firstly, can you please tell me about the origin, the aims and the purpose of your business…?
“Originally we were a pick your own Apple Farm, and encouraged local people to sponsor a tree to give as a gift. Over twenty years or so the Christmas tree side of our produce has mushroomed and is now the main stay of our business. What sets us apart is the quality and freshness of our trees and the way the business is organized, we have an excellent team of dedicated, expert tree growers. Alongside our apple orchards, we grew Christmas trees by accident, and it was a happy one. When the apple market took a downturn we grew Christmas trees and found that people wanted them. We listened to the market and provided what people wanted. We looked at the industry and found that it was made up of a very small number of dedicated growers and retailers, and most importantly, supermarkets were not prepared to invest the time and effort into the growing or retailing fir trees., However as farmers we were used to that level of commitment and, knowing the big boys would not be interested, made it a viable business for us. Our aims are to run a viable business that produces a quality product for the benefit of the local community, and provide an unbeatable experience in the rum up to Christmas, when people come out into the cold to buy their tree. We know we are excellent at what we do, we were awarded Tree Growers of the Year in 2005 and as part of our accolade we supplied the Christmas tree to go outside of No 10 Downing Street.”
“A seed to a tree farmer is a grape to a wine producer… The seed’s origin is as meaningful to the farmer as a grape’s is to the owner of a vineyard. As a grower I/we can request which glacial mountain slope our trees come from, which mountain in Russia or Turkey. First it begins as a seed, which is grown and cared for in nurseries. 4 years later it is sold as a sapling to farmers such as ourselves, where we patiently tend to its every need for six to ten years, before it is ready to be felled for sale.”
What did you want to achieve by using DOR-2-DOR?
“To get my leaflets honestly delivered. I had an interesting experience which made me stop using local newspapers. It makes me laugh now but at the time I wasn’t impressed. My leaflets were given to the local newsagents and it was their job to make sure they were put into the local paper. I went into my local newsagent to ask for some information and was handed a piece of scrap paper to write on. The “scrap paper” came from a huge pile of the leaflets I had given to the local newspaper. The audacity was impressive, their customer care less so. That’s when I contacted DOR-2-DOR.”
How would you describe your D2D experience?
“It gets our point across as it drops through the door. I have a good relationship with Jeff Frankling. Jeff’s business is like a walking stick, and once you start walking, supported by a stick you get used to using it. You are not going to venture out without it. That’s how I see DOR-2-DOR. And sometimes, when I need it, he uses the stick to beat me with, to energetically remind me my leaflets need delivering.”
Would you recommend DOR-2-DOR and/or use our service again?
“I have used DOR-2-DOR for over ten years and recommended them to other businesses. At our busiest time of the year, when I am literally ‘snowed under’ with work it means I don’t have to organize leaflet distribution and I have the confidence that a good job will done.”
Looking ahead, how do you see DOR-2-DOR helping your business achieve its future objectives?
“Doing exactly the same, at the same time, same place, next year”