Busy tree growers Gene and Staci Molyneaux made time to share their knowledge with us during a wreath-making workshop at the Bundy Museum of Art and History in Binghamton on Friday, Dec. 7. Twenty participants filled the small space with limbs and trimmings and needles as the Molyneauxs guided them through the process. After clipping branches and grouping uniform sprigs into bunches, participants worked with Gene to use a special crimping machine to affix them to a wreath ring. Staci showed us how to make big, beautiful bows.

For tree growers, making wreaths is a clever way to maximize profit. Trees’ lower branches, which are usually removed before trees are sold, pile up and often go unused. Especially because growing trees requires a considerable time investment (each takes 7-10 years to mature), piles of unused branches suggest wasted resources.

Gene and Staci own Molyneaux Plantation and Tree Farm in rural Broome County, where they grow a variety of Christmas trees and blueberries. Gene’s father, Richard, or “Pa,” established the farm after returning home from fighting in World War 2. His first trees were planted in 1948. He later established the Broome County Christmas Tree Growers Association. Pa passed away in 2017 at the age of 97, but Gene and Staci have continued his legacy of conservation education.

While making their wreaths, workshop participants sampled traditional Christmas cookies. Their variety reflects Broome County’s diversity and longtime history as a destination for those immigrating to the United States.

Alfajores, prepared by Ana Luckert of The Peruvian Bakery, are Latin American sandwich cookies made with dulce de leche. Ana sells a variety of traditional Peruvian foods year-round at the the Broome County Regional Farmers Market.

Zázvorníky, prepared by Dan McLarney of Czech Pleeze, are unique Czecho-Slovak ginger cookies that must dry overnight before they are baked.

No upstate gathering is complete without an Italian cookie tray, of course! Ours was prepared by Di Rienzo Bros. Bakery, owned and operated by third-generation bakers Carmen and Anthony Di Rienzo.