100-year-old business continues to be family run

Allison CollinsFather-daughter Christmas tree farmers John Sipple and Heather Janinda stand among some of their 9,000 Fraser firs at Sipple’s Farm in Bainbridge.

After relocating from Georgia, 44-year-old Heather Janinda and her husband Randy are keeping Christmas — and family — traditions alive in Bainbridge.

Earlier this year, the Janindas took over Sipple’s Farm at 1245 county Road 39 in Bainbridge, continuing something started nearly 100 years ago. Sipple’s features cut-your-own Christmas trees and a holiday-themed gift shop.

“My great-grandfather started it in 1920,” Janinda said, “so we’re going to be celebrating 100 years this April, but it was going to close.

“When my grandparents passed away, my aunts moved onto the property and they added the gift shop and ran the place (since 1997),” she said. “But their husbands’ health was declining, they were ready to retire and they’d tried to sell, but it didn’t, so that’s when we thought, ‘Maybe we’re supposed to buy the farm.’ I talked to my dad and we agreed on it after a few months. He grew up on this farm, so he knew it was cold, hard work in a small town, but then he said, ‘This needs to happen,’ and here we are.”

That process, Janinda noted, began last September.

Janinda’s father John Sipple, 75, said Sipple’s began selling trees 40 years ago. The farm has about 9,000 trees on it, he said, the majority of which are Fraser fir varieties.

The idea to save the family business, which Janinda said struck “like a bolt of lightning,” followed closure of the Janindas’ San Francisco-area brewery.

“My husband and I owned a California brewery … called Farm Creek,” she said. “The farm part of it was based off of this farm and my husband grew up on a farm, so we were trying to bring our families into that and our logo was a big red barn, modeled after the one here. We closed that business and moved back to Georgia, where family was, and started thinking about doing another brewery, but didn’t know where. We knew we liked something with a barn, a river and access to a big interstate, so then it hit me.”

John Sipple said he’s pleased to see the 12-acre farm not only endure, but also remain in the family.

“My grandfather was the John Sipple,” he said. “Now I’m thrilled that Heather and Randy want to do it, That’s the best part of it all and it’s wonderful.”

The farm’s longevity, Sipple said, has kept it popular with clients near and far.

“My father, Lloyd Sipple, made maple syrup here and his was the second largest operation in the country at the time,” he said. “Then he continued on with the Christmas trees and my sisters did a great job with the shop, so Sipple’s Farm has been kind of an attraction and a known thing for a long time. People would come from 100 miles.”

“We get people from (New York) city and people want to carry on their family traditions,” Janinda said. “I know there was a lot of heartache when my aunts announced that it was going to be their last season, when we were looking at it but weren’t sure yet, so people are excited that they can keep coming to the same place they’ve been coming for 40 years.

“And (the clientele) is very mixed,” she said. “It’s everybody — a lot of young families, but also if someone older comes and can’t walk well or very far, we have trees that are very close (to the parking area).”

The gift shop, also easily accessible, Janinda said, features Christmas items, ornaments, stockings, goods from area crafter Little Blue Barn Primitives, scarves, mittens, hats and more. Janinda said her adult daughter will also introduce specialty soaps and lotions at the shop, made with the milk of goats raised on-site.

Janinda said, in the next five years and beyond, she hopes to grow more than just Christmas trees at Sipple’s.

“This is the year of my husband and I learning the process, then we’ll try to expand next year,” she said. “We’re going to focus on the trees and replanting, keeping the gift shop going and trying to bring maple syrup back, but eventually we want to have a sort of event center with a brewery and tap room and maybe a B&B. The main goal is just being here and being part of the community.”

The farm and gift shop will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 29 and 30, and Dec. 1, 7, 8, 14 and 15.

For more information, find “Sipple’s Farm” on Facebook or call 678-681-4388.

*Story changed at 12:49 p.m. Nov. 16 to correct the spelling of the family's last name.

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