Louis J. Blodgett, a rancher and grower whose Christmas tree farm in Sloughhouse was a popular holiday destination for families for many years, died June 30. He was 86 and had cancer, his family said.
Mr. Blodgett's family ran livestock and crop operations on hundreds of acres in Amador and Sacramento counties. In 1961, he turned an experimental tree project by the UC Cooperative Extension on his land into one of the first choose-and-cut Christmas tree businesses in the area.
He welcomed families who kicked off their holiday celebrations with a scenic drive in the country to his tree farm along Deer Creek and the Cosumnes River. He guided visitors through row after row of fresh Monterey and Scotch pines, Douglas firs, Sierra redwoods and incense cedars on 40 acres near his homestead off Sloughhouse Road.
"Some people want an open tree. Some want a bushy tree. Some people come in and say, 'I can't find one I like,' and other people come out with just an average tree and they think they got the prettiest tree in the lot," he told The Bee in 1990. "I'm not going to argue with them."
For 35 years, more than 1,000 trees were cut and sold on a good day at Blodgett & Ostman Tree Farm, which Mr. Blodgett turned into an agri-tourism venture. He encouraged families to picnic on the grounds and brought in farm animals for children to pet. He enjoyed catching up with many visitors who returned every year after Thanksgiving to cut their own trees.
"My dad was very outgoing and would talk to anyone at length," said his son, Bruce. "You could always count on him to talk about anything. He loved having people visit."
After Cosumnes River flooding damaged trees in 1997, however, Mr. Blodgett sold the land to a vintner. He remained busy with other farm operations but felt sad when families who continued for several years to arrive at the former tree lot near his home in December turned back outside a closed gate, his son said.
Louis Jefferson Blodgett was born in Sacramento in 1926 to Harvey and Muriel Blodgett. He graduated from Elk Grove High School, served in the Army during World War II and studied livestock production at UC Davis.
He joined his family's diversified agricultural operations including cattle, hay, hops, Christmas trees and row crops in the Sloughhouse and Amador City areas. He was married for 61 years to the former Janice Ostman and had five children.
Mr. Blodgett served in leadership positions with Reclamation District 800 and Omochumne-Hartnell Water District. He served on the boards of Cosumnes River Elementary School and the Sacramento County Farm Bureau and was president of the Amador-El Dorado-Sacramento Counties Cattlemen's Association.
Running a Christmas tree farm left Mr. Blodgett's family little time to prepare for their own holidays, including buying gifts. "We go through catalogs quite a bit, and there's always that last-minute rush," he said in his 1990 interview.
But he always made time to help others find the perfect tree even at the last minute.
"One lady in particular has come the last couple of years on Christmas Eve I guess it's a family tradition and she comes right when we're sitting down to dinner," he said. "We have to go out with her and look around in the dark."