In 2020, the farm had to shut down to customers only two weekends into the selling season

ATASCADERO – The tradition stands that Christmas is here as soon as Thanksgiving is over. So, families load into their cars and head out in search of the perfect tree, almost before the turkey has settled in their stomachs. But this wasn’t the only reason one of our favorite, locally owned tree farms, Hidden Springs in Atascadero, saw an intense uptick in sales last year.

“That was our busiest year ever. Last year. And we did close early,” says Hidden Springs owner, Auraly Dobbs.

Hidden Springs sees most of their sales the weekend of Thanksgiving during an average year, and usually, they’re open for at least three weekends leading up to Christmas. However, in 2020, the farm had to shut down to customers only two weekends into the selling season.

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“What happened last year was, it was just really crazy. I think COVID made it even crazier because people were stopping in—I noticed that there were a lot of [new] people that were traveling either North or South in the car, and they could stop and let the kids run around and get a tree on their way [back home],” continued Auraly.

Because of the surplus of new clientele, there were some locals who waited too long to get a tree from the farm.

“I think because of COVID, our usual loyal customers, you know, there were a few that were disappointed, but they were very understanding,” added Auraly.

And even if it looked like there were more trees available. The art of Christmas tree growing takes a lot of future planning. So it’s important to think about tree crops for upcoming seasons.

“We pick a certain number of trees a year that we can tag. We try to plan for future crops because a lot of people, what they think is that they can just go and cut down anything that looks sellable. And what happens though, if we do that, we could be short trees next year and even years to come if we don’t hold back on selling,” said Auraly.

She continued, “So we’re really cautious about how many we cut down and lose in a year. I know some tree farmers had to–they’re not even opening this year. They over-sold. So we’re trying to avoid that.”

Hidden Springs accounted for extra customers this year, as well as the excess heat and drought we’ve experienced, and brought in additional pre-cut trees, which are a great way to supplement the trees that they won’t be selling this year. The pre-cut trees are also available for families who can’t find the right tree to cut down.

“There’s two types of trees, the Nordmann Firs and the Noble Firs, that we can’t grow here [in California]. Up in Oregon is where they grow. We have a farmer that we work with [in Oregon], so we brought in 200 [pre-cut trees] this year,” said Auraly’s daughter, Olivia Dobbs, who also works at the farm.

Though COVID, and the need for outside activities, definitely seem to be contributing factors in the number of customers showing up at Hidden Springs last year, that doesn’t seem to be the only reason.

“I think real trees have gotten more popular in the last ten years, as people get away from plastic, which is great. And there’s been a lot more young families moving to the area, which is great. So they come with their kids and stuff. I think [real trees] just become more popular. Which has been great for us,” added Olivia.

This year, Hidden Springs was able to stay open for a third weekend, with trees and pre-cuts still available to customers.

So, what can we expect next year? Other than some fun festivities prior to tree season to celebrate Hidden Springs’ 60th Anniversary, we’ll just have to wait and see.