Why would anyone go to a tree farm when cheap trees line store parking lots all over town? Loyal patrons of Atascadero’s Hidden Springs Tree Farm would likely give you several reasons.
According to Auraly Dobbs, tradition is part of what keeps the farm going. Her grandparents, Fred and Wanda Frank bought the farm in the early 1930s, originally growing hay, wheat and fruit. They raised their family on the farm and, in 1962, their son Fred Jr., Auraly’s father, persuaded them to begin farming Christmas trees.
“My dad was a natural resource major from Humboldt and worked for the California Department of Forestry,” she said. “He was very familiar with trees.”
Today, Fred Jr. and his wife Pat own the farm and Auraly, her husband Craig and their two kids help out.
Visiting the farm has become a Christmas tradition for many local families, according to Auraly.
“For a lot of people, it’s just the experience of it,” she said. “People come down with their dogs and explore the farm and choose their tree. Then you can sit by the fire, roast chestnuts and drink apple cider,” she said.
Also attractive is the sheer variety of trees. On the farm’s 10 acres, they grow Monterey pine, white fir, redwood, cedar, Scotch pine, as well as the most popular varieties — Douglas fir, blue spruce and white spruce.
There’s also no arguing that fresh-cut trees last longer than pre-cut trees, which may have been cut several days before arriving at stores.
“Some people tell us they keep our trees up until February,” said Auraly.
To keep your freshly-cut tree looking vibrant, never let it go without water, she advised.
“Once it dries out, it seals itself over and it won’t come back,” she said. “Trees need a lot of water.”
Once you have cut your tree, get it into water within 30 minutes, if possible. If the tree has been cut for more than an hour, be sure to cut away a portion of the trunk before placing in water. Then check the water reservoir every day and keep it full.
Keep trees away from heat, which also can dry them out. This means positioning your tree across the room from the fireplace and away from heating vents or sunny windows.
Another benefit of this local tree farm — you can be assured that the trees are pesticide-free. They will gladly use their mechanical shaker to remove loose needles, bugs and dust for you before the tree is bailed and ready for you to take home.
Hidden Springs Tree Farm is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 12 to 5 p.m., and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They sell trees, stands, wreaths and boughs. There are picnic areas onsite, as well as complimentary candy canes, popcorn, chestnuts and apple cider. Tours are offered by appointment.
The farm is located at 3202 Monterey Road in Atascadero, 466-2220.