The Perfect Christmas Tree Farm near Phillipsburg is for sale, but it is open for this holiday season. It may be the last season for the holiday destination just off the westbound side of Route 22, depending on if and when a buyer steps up.

Owners John and Cynthia Curtis are preparing for retirement, and that means letting go of their 35-acre farm in Lopatcong Township. John is 81 and Cynthia will turn 80 two days before Christmas.

"I love this place. John loves this place. He's a master grower," Cynthia Curtis said Wednesday. "We love the farm, but now this is just too much for us. It's time to retire."

Farm life can be difficult. On that day, John's truck was stuck in mud, and keeping up land and maintaining machines is a near-constant job. John Curtis has been in the tree business for more than 60 years. He has been a leader in the New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers Association and the national association, and his trees have decorated the New Jersey governor's residence.

He started in the business as a teenager and has not slowed down yet.

"We still have a bigger selection than anybody," he said. The Perfect farm has about 40 varieties of Christmas trees spread out over the rolling acreage. There are familiar trees, such as the Douglas fir and pine, along with Algerian, Japanese and Siberian firs, concolors and cross breeds.

Not surprisingly, John is not a big fan of artificial trees. He said many are cheap imports that may deteriorate in a few years.

"Our trees are natural. If you bring them back to us, we will recycle them," he said. Tree returns should be free of tinsel and ornaments.

While John is in charge of growing trees, Cynthia handles wreaths, garlands and the Christmas shop. She is also a "laughter yoga" instructor. Laughter is good for health and mental well-being, she said, and besides that, it's fun.

The Perfect farm is just off the northern side of Route 22, west of the Phillipsburg Mall, but the land slopes down and provides a rural haven, along with an 18th century stone home, a Christmas shop and other outbuildings. Still, even here, the modern changes in Warren County and western New Jersey intrude. There is a huge warehouse across the highway, and from some vantage points on the farm, the tops of big apartment buildings are visible.

Lopatcong is considering a development plan for nearby properties that concerns John and Cynthia Curtis because it may complicate their efforts to sell. John asked the township "not to muck it up" during a recent discussion of potential redevelopment of the mall and other nearby tracts. The township has a plan, but has not taken any steps to implement it. That may be months away.

The couple is looking for a small house in the area on a couple acres. They like to think that their property will remain open, as a farm or perhaps a home and office. The reality, of course, could be different. More warehouses are popping up nearby and the potential for Lopatcong to allow new uses on land along Route 22 could add development pressure.

"This place is beautiful," Cynthia said. "It's a haven and it should remain open. But the truth is, the next owner will do whatever they want with it."

The Perfect Christmas Tree Farm at 999 U.S. Highway 22 will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. through the holiday season up, with its final day open this year - and perhaps forever - Dec. 23.

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