Glenn Church shears a tree to give it the finishing touch at Church Christmas Tree Farm. —contributed

ROYAL OAKS—Last year, Church Christmas Tree Farms celebrated its 60th year. The family-owned business, now run by Glenn Church and his two sons, has become a local destination for families to come and cut down their own tree during the holidays.

And the Covid-19 pandemic has not slowed things down—in fact, Church says he’s received numerous calls from people interested in coming out to visit, some for the first time. The farms open today and will remain so until mid-December.

“We are expecting that it will be quite busy,” Church said. “People are looking for ways to celebrate the holidays safely. We are at a big advantage, being outdoors and in an open space like this. ” 

Another less-than-ideal reason they are expecting more visitors, Church admitted, is because a major tree farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains was burned up by the CZU Lightning Complex fires. Crest Ranch, which was established in 1948, lost about 40 acres in the blaze, and as such their supply will be low this year.

“I couldn’t imagine going through what they did… it must have been devastating,” Church said.

The fires in Monterey County did not reach the Church’s trees, however, there was plenty of ash that coated them for a while. This is why a couple of recent rain storms were welcome, as it was able to wash off the debris and soak into the surrounding soil.

The farms were even lucky temperature-wise; the 100-degree weather that scorched parts of the area in August and September did not quite reach their locations off of Hidden Valley Road.

With temperate weather on the way for the next two weeks, Church says things are looking up for the farms, which offer 30 different varieties of evergreen trees. Despite a shortage of pre-cut trees coming in from Oregon, especially large types such as Noble Firs, their own stock seems to be doing well, especially smaller species.

“I think it might be our best crop we’ve had in years,” he said. “The young trees are coming on well, thriving.”

The farms are implementing a number of Covid-19 protocols: guests must wear masks and practice social distancing while on the property, and tree saws will be sanitized after every use. While the business cannot offer their usual holiday treats such as hot chocolate to visitors, they will be offering pre-wrapped candy canes. Guests are asked to wear sturdy shoes for hiking around the property.

“I always say, everyone should go out at least once in their life and cut down their own Christmas tree,” Church said. “It might as well be this year.”

Church Christmas Tree Farms are located at 470 Hidden Valley Rd. and 377 Hidden Valley Rd., Royal Oaks. It is open rain or shine weekdays noon-4:30pm and weekends 9am-4:30pm. The business also operates a pre-cut lot at the Northridge Mall, 796 Northridge Drive, Salinas. 

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Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business, nonprofits and agriculture.


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