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Farming Christmas trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains

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Published on Mar 5, 2011

The earliest Christmas tree farms in the area were established in the late 30s and early 40s and the industry boomed in the 1960s as local communities expanded increasing the need for trees. Despite the steep decline in the industry, the population has continued to swell, increasing 18 percent since 1990.

The farms outside of Los Gatos are small, few are larger than thirty acres of land, and independently owned and operated usually selling the trees from Thanksgiving through Christmas to customers who drive up to the hills to cut down their own Christmas tree as opposed to buying one pre-cut from a different tree seller closer to home.

Despite such a high concentration of farms in such a small area, the farmers describe the business as not being particularly competitive locally. Johsens said, "We do share a good camaraderie with our fellow Christmas tree farmers, both here in our community and as an industry, and farmers locally will happily direct a customer to a neighboring farm in order to ensure customer satisfaction."

As it turns out, the corridor surrounding California Highway 17, which connects Los Gatos and Santa Cruz, represents one of the few places where Christmas trees can be grown successfully in the region. Lahann said, "At about 2,500 feet altitude, we are at a good elevation for Douglas Fir which is native to the area and the most popularly grown tree here." He added, "I would guess overall that 75% of the Christmas trees grown in this area are Douglas Fir."

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