Agriculture is a family tradition for the Servais family that has evolved over time.
Coon Valley Dairy Supply has been a family-owned business for more than 70 years. It was started by Ed Servais and Orville Aadland in 1946. Now, Ed’s grandson Larry Servais is the sole owner of the business.
Larry’s twin children are also part of the tradition. His daughter does office work, and his son is the shop foreman.
What started as a company that supplied materials for small-scaled dairy farms transformed over the years as the number of farms dropped. Today, Coon Valley Dairy Supply focuses on hardware, lawn mowers, tractors, utility vehicles and more. In the near future, they hope to continue growing into their next adventure: Christmas trees.
It all started when Larry had the chance to purchase a farm his grandfather had his eye on for years. Once it was in the Servais family name, his daughter and daughter-in-law came up with the idea to start K&L Christmas Tree Farm.
“What we want is an experience where it brings you back to the old-time ways,” Larry said. “You can take your kids and pick out a Christmas tree and cut it, or we will cut it for you. We’re going to have an old-time store on the farm where you can sit by the fire and have hot coffee and cocoa and cookies.”
While they are still years away from that dream, the family has been strategically planting trees. Their goal each spring is to be finished planting by Easter, but as with all areas of agriculture, the weather makes the final decision. Right now, the Servais family has up to 10 varieties of Christmas trees in the ground, but many were lost in their first year because of a flood that ripped through Coon Valley.
“The lower fields that we had planted were under 18 to 19 feet of water,” Larry said. “The trees were absolutely beautiful. We were doing really well with them, so we lost almost all of our first year’s planting.”
Larry said he and his wife hand dug out some surviving trees, cleaned them, and moved them to a nursery where 250 of more than 3,000 were saved.
Rather than losing soil in the flood, they gained up to three feet of sand in some areas.
“We actually have white beach sand property, Larry said. “It doesn’t grow anything. It is just white as snow.”
They hope to recover that land someday and have started planting food plots there for wildlife to begin the process. Larry predicted it would be another three to five years before it is usable again.
Regardless, the family was not dismayed. Just last year, they bought their own tree planter, which changed the game.
“We were always renting from the county or from the DNR, which was fine, but you really have to plan because we are going to three to put in 3,000 trees in two days,” Larry said.
Even with their own planter, there are still many aspects of planning to consider.
“Laying out the rows and thinking about the process of how far people want to walk was quite a conversation,” Larry said. “Do we want this specific brand or species of trees in this area, or do we want to mix and match?”
They eventually decided on a mixed-method to give families the full experience of walking around the farm. The Servais family hoped to have trees ready within five years. Instead of looking at profits, they look forward to future memories they will make.
“I think it is going to be a lot of fun when you get the family that comes year after year, and then you see those kids grow up and maybe bring their kids,” Larry said.