At first glance, Kodiak may seem like the perfect place to find a Christmas tree. But Kodiak’s native spruce trees are not the ideal Christmas material. What Kodiak needed was a tree farm, and Todd Dorman decided to meet that need.
In 2006, Dorman converted a Bells Flats property previously used to raise pigs into a tree farm. He planted more than 30 varieties of trees, unsure of which would be successful in the island’s wet climate. Many died but some survived. That was just the beginning.
Dorman was inspired by his father, who moved to Kodiak 40 years ago. Charlie Dorman was raised in Oregon, where he worked as a farmer and logger. In Kodiak, Charlie raised cattle and buffalo in Saltery Cove, in addition to working as a firefighter.
In the mid-1980s, the Dorman family made its first attempt at a tree farm. But the trees didn’t make it. Years went by before the family decided to give it another shot.
Charlie died in 2014 but lived to see the farm’s first trees mature.
Dorman said that growing trees in Kodiak is more challenging than he expected. He has had to contend with hungry rabbits and deer and fluctuating winter temperatures that go from snowy to rainy throughout the season.
Dorman initially planted half an acre. Now the tree farm boasts about two and a half acres, with 30 varieties and around 2,000 trees growing on the property. It takes between eight and 10 years for saplings to mature. After a few years of successful growing, the farm is now packed with large, ornament-ready trees.
Dozens of Kodiak residents made their way to the farm this weekend to pick out their tree. While the farm has been more successful in recent years, Dorman said it’s impossible to make a living off of Kodiak’s only tree farm. It’s a labor of love.
This year, in addition to selling trees, the Dorman Farm is hosting “Christmas on the Farm” — a Christmas bazaar featuring gifts, cookies and the opportunity to take professional family photos. The bazaar will be open every weekend until Christmas. Families can choose and cut their own tree. Most trees, depending on their size, sell for $100.