MOHNTON Pa. (WHTM) — As you might expect, Plow Farms, a Christmas tree farm near Morgantown, Pennsylvania, gets very busy this time of year. People come to buy pre-cut trees or go out in the fields to cut their own.
“Plow Farms was started in the early eighties by my parents,” says Lindsay Eshelman, “And it’s been in our blood for generations. And we’re really proud to serve Central Pennsylvania as one of the leading Christmas tree farms.”
You can expect things to get even busier on December 11th. That’s when some really big dogs arrive for a really big event, the annual “Newfoundland Christmas Tree Pull”.
“We’ve been doing the Newfoundland pull for about seven or eight years now,” says Eshelman.
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Newfoundlands are, as the name suggests, a dog breed from Newfoundland. When we say they’re big dogs, we’re talking 125-150 pounds average weight, sometimes going up to 200 pounds. They were originally bred as working dogs for fishermen; their double layer of fur insulates them and provides buoyancy, and they have webbed feet which makes them strong swimmers. They are used around the world as water rescue dogs. On land, they were often used as cart dogs, a tradition being continued by Plow Farms.
Doing some sort of event with Newfoundland dogs wasn’t a hard decision for the folks at Plow Farms. “Our family has always been a Newfoundland dog family,” says Eshelman. “My brother, my sister-in-law, all of our extended relatives seem to have Newfoundlands. And there’s no better way to showcase our love of the breed than letting them work. They’re working dogs, they love to be active, and the one thing we can do is hook them up to carts, and have them pull Christmas trees out of the field, it brings the dogs joy, and it brings the people even more joy.”
There will be around fifty Newfoundland dogs, or Newfies, at the farm that day. About ten will be hauling trees. Glenn Lester brought his dog Glory to the farm, to show us a Newfoundland dog in action. How did he become a Newfie fan?
“My daughter said “hey, I’d like a big dog,” he explains. “I knew a breeder, so I went to her house, she had seven of them. So I met seven Newfoundlands in one day, and I took my daughter, so that’s how I got introduced to Newfoundlands.”
Glenn and Glory showed us how the Christmas tree pull works, with the help of Zach Creelman and Scarlett Means of Ephrata, who were happy to volunteer their tree for the demonstration.
“I came here as a kid.” Zach explains. This is his first time seeing the dogs hauling trees. “I knew that was a thing, I heard of it happening here before, but actually never had it done.”
The tree goes into the cart, and everyone heads down to the checkout area. The event’s called a tree pull, and everyone says the dog “pulls” the cart, but according to Lindsey, that’s not actually what’s going on.
“When hooked up correctly, Newfoundlands actually push the cart. The strap of the cart actually goes across their chest, so with that motion, when they step forward, it pushes the chest and it propels the cart forward. There’s no back pull on it. So they can really move a lot of weight with that kind of weight and that technology. We always want to tell people there’s no animal cruelty, these dogs are meant to work, they’re not pulling heavy, they’re pushing, and they can push with a lot of might.”
Dog and cart pull-excuse me, push-the tree down to a bailer, to be wrapped up for travel. Between trips, the Newfoundlands demonstrate they’re not only good at working, they’re good at relaxing, slabbing out at every opportunity. They also demonstrate their laid-back temperament. Kids and adults gather around constantly to pet the big dog.
“The Newfoundland dog is actually known as the Nanny dog, they were the Nanny dog in Peter Pan” says Eshelman. “They’re gentle giants. And that’s what we love to show on our Newfoundland Day is that they’re friendly with kids, their size shouldn’t be intimidating, they’re just gentle dogs who are loving perfect family pets. “
“They’re very friendly, they’re very affectionate, they like people, they like other dogs.” adds Glenn Lester. “I’m a people person, so naturally when you have a dog you get people coming towards you, and a lot of times it’s children. They love children and she’s always been great with children.”
“Of course,” he adds, “the adults are the ones that, when they see their child running towards a Newfoundland, and they don’t understand what the dog is, they’re yelling at their kids ‘Come back, get back here!”
Though the Newfoundlands will be the stars of the show, Eshelman says the Tree Pull is for anyone who loves dogs.
“If you’re a dog owner, come. If you’re a dog lover, come. Just beautiful dogs doing beautiful work, and spreading their holiday cheer.”