Farm to fork? These farmers specialize in field to floor.
“We’re growing something that’s sustainable,” said Dee Kobervig, president of the El Dorado County Christmas Tree Growers Association. “We’re trying to grow something for our (Northern California) Christmas tree market, something that people want.”
On Apple Hill, it’s looking a lot like Christmas, which is just the way tree farmers like it. This weekend marks the official opening of cut-your-own-tree season as dozens of mom-and-pop farms open their gates to city folks who drive up.
“A lot of people are going back to the basics with family traditions,” Kobervig said. “(Looking for a tree) is a fun adventure. You can drink hot chocolate and munch a candy cane. And the trees look fantastic this season.”
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Mild fall weather helped the firs and pines develop lots of branches and grow lustrous new needles.
“It’s going to be a great tree crop,” said Kobervig, who co-owns Crystal Creek Tree Farm in Camino. “It was not that hot a summer. We didn’t have much rain, but most farmers irrigated. We saw a lot of growth on the trees. Then, that little bit of rain we (had) hydrated them right up.”
Clustered along Highway 50 near Placerville, 32 farms are part of the El Dorado County association. Another 20 or so farms dot the Sierra foothills, all within an hour or two of Sacramento. Trees bring almost as many visitors to the Apple Hill area as its most famous crop.
“These are all small family farms,” Kobervig said. “This area was really busy in October during apple season. We’re hoping people will come back for a Christmas tree. Most farms are keeping their prices the same as last year.”
Many growers have embraced “silviculture,” managing their trees like a farm crop but with nature in mind. That includes finding the right microclimates to grow trees that customers may not find at a big box store or city tree lot.
Among the most popular of these “new” trees is the Nordmann fir. Native to the Caucasus Mountains near the Black Sea, these firs have found many fans in Northern California – including growers.
“A lot of people can’t grow silver tips here; they need higher elevation,” Kobervig said. “But the Nordmanns love it. They’re greener than the noble fir and very full. They’ve become very popular.”
The Nordmanns feel right at home, she added. “They’re native to 3,000 to 7,000 feet in elevation and get about 39 inches of rain a year; that’s almost exactly what we get and we’re at 3,300 feet.”
Freshened by light rain, the Nordmanns, nobles and other trees all look grand. Now, the growers need weather to cooperate some more.
Said Kobervig: “So far, there’s no snow – and that’s good. The roads are all clear, and we hope they stay that way.”
EL DORADO COUNTY
• Apple Country Christmas Trees
White fir, Douglas fir, Scotch pine, sequoia, incense cedar. Apples, cider, walnuts, apple pies, picnic tables, easy walking trails. Open noon-dusk Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-dusk Saturday-Sunday.
• Ardencaple Forest Christmas Tree Farm
2580 Andler Road, Placerville; (530)626-3822.
Douglas fir, white fir, incense cedar. Candy canes, picnic tables. Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.
• Barkley Ranch Tree Farm
2836 Barkley Road, Camino; (530)333-3480.
White fir. Open 9 a.m.-dark weekends.
• Boa Vista Orchards
White fir, Douglas fir. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends.
• Carson Ridge Evergreens
White fir, Douglas fir, silver tip. Fresh wreaths, candy canes, paved walkway. Note: cash/check only. Open 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends.
• Cedar Ravine Tree Farm
5240 Cedar Ravine, Placerville; (530)622-3546. Open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily.
• Crystal Creek Tree Farm
White fir, Douglas fir, silver tip, Scotch pine, blue spruce, noble fir. Wooded setting, candy canes, wreaths. Open 9:30 a.m.-dusk through Dec. 24.
• Davis Christmas Creek Farm
White fir, Douglas fir, noble fir, sequoia, cedar. Wreaths. Open 9 a.m.-dark weekends (weekdays by appointment).
• Deer Park Ranch Christmas Trees
Douglas fir. Free coffee, juice, candy canes, cookies. Warm barn and picnic area. Open dawn to dusk daily.
• Deutsch’s Union Mine Pines
Douglas fir, Monterey pine, Scotch pine, cedar. Antique farm equipment, gold mining tools, Nativity scene, life-size Santa. Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
• Figor Tree Farm
White fir, Douglas fir, silver tip, sequoia, spruce. Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
• Fudge Factory Farm
White fir, Douglas fir, Canaan fir, pine. Children’s play area, candy factory, candy-making workshop. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
• Harris Tree Farm
White fir, Douglas fir, silver tip, cedar, noble fir, pine. Natural wood picnic area, apples, cider, apple pies. Open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily.
• Hidden Canyon Tree Farm
3500 Newton Road, Placerville; (530)622-6760.
White fir, Douglas fir, silver tip, sequoia, cedar. Local honey, firewood. Open 9 a.m.-dark daily.
• High Sierra Iris and Wedding Gardens
Colorado blue spruce, noble fir, silver fir, Fraser fir, white fir, sequoia, swift silver. Handmade wreaths, picnic tables. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
• Hillside Tree Farm
White fir, Douglas fir, silver tip, noble fir, Fraser fir. Open 8:30-4:30 p.m. daily.
• Indian Rock Tree Farm
White fir, Douglas fir, silver tip, cedar, pine, exotic true firs. Picnicking, wreaths, gift shop. Open 8:30 a.m.-dark daily through Dec. 24.
• Jim and Mary’s Tree Farm
Douglas fir, Scotch pine, incense cedar. Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-4 p.m. Sunday.
• Kenny, Harry and Heidi’s Tree Farm
Douglas fir, white fir, Colorado blue spruce. Kids life-size toy wooden train, picnic area, pond, free candy canes, coffee, hot chocolate. Open 9 a.m.-dark weekends.
• Levi’s Tree Farm
Douglas fir, white fir, red fir. Open 9 a.m.-dusk daily.
• McGee’s Christmas Tree Farm
Silver tip, noble fir, Douglas fir, white fir, Canaan, swift silver. Free greenry, candy canes, fresh pre-cut trees and wreaths. Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-dark weekends.
• O’Hallorans Apple Trail Ranch
Silver tip, white fir. Apples, apple juice, pears, picnic area, nature trail. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
• OMO Ranch Tree Farm
White fir, Douglas fir, cedar. Secluded picnic and barbecue sites, fresh wreaths, gift shop. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
• Poverty Hill Tree Farm
Colorado blue spruce, Norway spruce, Douglas fir, white fir, sequoia. Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
• Prenderosa Tree Farm
Douglas fir, white fir, Scotch pine, cedar, sequoia; precut Oregon noble, Nordmann, grand fir. Farm-made wreath decorations, tree supplies, cider, marshmallow roasting, fire, music. Open noon-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends.
• Roberts Tree Farms (two locations)
Douglas fir, white fir. Open 9 a.m.-dusk daily.
5645 Gilmore Road, Pollock Pines.
Douglas fir, white fir, Scotch pine. Open 9:30 a.m.-dusk daily.
• Secret Ravine Tree Farm
2740 Mace Road, Camino; (530)919-2688.
Silver tip, white fir, Colorado blue spruce. Open 9 a.m.-dusk weekends.
• Sierra Magnifica Christmas Tree Farm
Silver tip, white fir, Douglas fir, swift silver. Fresh wreaths, packaging available, free greenery, hot drinks. Open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily.
• Silver Forest Tree Farm
4041 Rontree Lane, Somerset; (530)620-6261.
White fir, red fir, Douglas fir, Scotch pine. All-weather roads, easy walking trails, picnic area, boughs, coffee, “kiddie treats.” Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
• Silverthorn Meadows
White fir. Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
• Smarts Christmas Tree Farm
Silver tip, noble fir, white fir, Douglas fir. Gentle terrain, snack bar, wreaths, crafts, picnic area, free candy canes. Open 11 a.m.-dusk Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-dusk weekends.
• Sundance Tree Farm
Douglas fir, Scotch pine. Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
• Twin Pines Christmas Tree Farm
Douglas fir, sequoia, white fir, blue spruce, French pine. Picnic tables, refreshments, mistletoe, holly, pine cones, cuttings, candy canes, netting. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
• Wolf Mountain
18251 Retrac Way, Grass Valley; (530)268-3968.
Douglas fir, Scotch pine, pre-cut silver tip. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends.
• Cole’s Christmas Tree Farm
6540 Highway 193, Newcastle; (916)663-2684.
Douglas fir and Sierra redwood. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
• Little Bear Tree Farm
White fir and silver tip. Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
• Poppy Lane Christmas Farm
Red fir (silver tips), white fir, Douglas fir, noble fir, Nordmann fir, spruce. Plus container trees, refreshments, Christmas decorations. Open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.
• Snowy Peaks Tree Farm
White fir, silver tip. Wagon rides for $3 per person (weather permitting), tree swing, and complimentary candy canes and hot chocolate. Note: dog friendly. Open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily through Dec. 18.
• Starlight View Christmas Tree Farm
2209 Shirland Tract Road, Auburn; (530)885-0489.
Douglas fir, Sierra redwood, Scotch pine. Hot apple cider and other treats. Open 8 a.m.-dusk Friday-Sunday.
• Tuma’s Foothill Trees
3845 Buffalo Road, Auburn; (530)889-1991.
Scotch pine, incense cedar. Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.
• Billy’s Farm
Pines, cypress, plus fresh cut trees from Oregon. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends.
• Davis Ranch
Douglas fir, Monterey pine, Sierra redwood, incense cedar, among others. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.