The year was 1959, and a young man named Warren Church was raising his family in north Monterey County not far from Elkhorn Slough. He purchased property on Hidden Valley Road which he called Verde Vista, and began to plant Monterey pine seedlings to create one of the area’s first Christmas tree farms.
A few years later, Warren started a second tree farm on property nearby that his mother and grandfather had originally purchased in the 1920s. Warren’s grandfather, Clinton King, cleared much of the property of oaks by hand when he was nearly 70 years old. Through the Great Depression, the farm was used to grow popcorn, which Warren’s mother sold door to door.
The Christmas tree farms are now more than 50 years old, and Warren’s son, Glenn, now oversees the operation. With Glenn’s two sons, that makes three generations that have grown Christmas trees in Hidden Valley, and five generations that have farmed here.
Over the years, we have planted dozens of different species but have found Monterey pine, Douglas fir, white fir, Italian stone pine, white spruce and incense cedar to do best in our Mediterranean climate.
Our Christmas Tree Farm at 470 Hidden Valley Road opens the day after Thanksgiving. It closes after the opening of our farm at 385 Hidden Valley Road, which opens near the end of the Christmas tree season. One farm or the other is open during our tree season. The 470 farm is mostly a unique forest of coastal Live Oak trees with nine scattered patches of Christmas trees. The tree patches are scattered amidst the oaks and manzanita and lead to a nice hike if you choose not to follow the roads by car. The 385 Farm is laid out in open fields that allow a view of most of the trees from any location.
Both farms are being heavily replanted. However, the drought has not been kind to our replanting efforts. We have planted over 15,000 trees in the last three years, but only about 4,000 have survived. Most of those have been in shadier areas, away from the summer heat of a southern exposure.
We’ll try again with several thousand more this next year…and hope for some rain.