The vice president of commercial banking at $2.1 billion-asset Tompkins Trust Company in Ithaca, N.Y., lends a hand at his family’s Christmas tree farm, which planted its first trees almost 50 years ago.
I’m a banker Monday through Friday. I trim Christmas trees the months of July and August; planting is done in April. The majority of my hours are November [through] December for tree selection, tree cutting and just helping the customers for the family business.
Raising a Christmas tree takes patience and a long-term commitment. You might not see it right away as far as the benefits of your labor, but it’s a long-term relationship, just like banking typically isn’t successful when it’s a transactional relationship. Whenever we prepare a field, the drainage needs to be there, and we need to look at all the components, kind of like long-term planning with a bank and commercial lending.
I have some other ag farm experience growing up on a vegetable crop farm owned by my grandfather and uncle. I think I shock some of my customers when I ask some of the questions that are more operational and not necessarily tied to the finances, just thinking more of the day to day and realizing that every farmer has to be a good businessman.
I love being outside. It’s really not work. It’s really fun for me to be out there, especially [during] the Christmas season [when] the families come out and the joy that it brings to see a family select a tree. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on the weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
—Kathryn Jackson Fallon