The farm opens for the season on Friday, Nov. 25 at 10 a.m.
By Blake Ashley Frino-Gerl
Atascadero News Contributor
ATASCADERO — On Friday, Nov. 25, the Hidden Springs Christmas Tree Farm in Atascadero will open for its 60th season with seven varieties of trees to choose from, hot cider, and plenty of opportunities to make memories.
To celebrate their glorious 60-year-old tree farm and business, there will be a few giveaways. They are also working on a historical picture display, interactive displays for children, and specific merchandise for their 60th. The farm still offers Grandpa Fred’s apple cider recipe, which is complimentary to all customers.
Hidden Springs Christmas Tree Farm has a life full of history. It began when Minnesotan Fred Frank moved to Atascadero in 1920 and met and married Kansas native Wanda Wiley. During that time, Fred became one of the first citizens to work at the Atascadero fire department and then the second fire chief in 1929. Then in 1938, Fred and Wanda purchased the main tree farm property. While building their house, they farmed wheat and raised cattle, chickens, and rabbits.
At the convincing of their son Fred Jr., who went to Humboldt State for forestry, they turned part of their property into a Christmas tree farm. Then in the late 1950s, they planted the first tree crop, mainly Monterey Pines, on three acres and opened for their first tree season in 1962.
According to Fred’s granddaughter and farm manager, Auraly Dobbs, “The tree farm has stayed in the family and is now run by the third and fourth generations, and the fifth was born this year.”
Fred Jr., now 86, is still very much involved in fixing equipment and chopping wood when needed. Since the farm’s incarnation of three acres, it has expanded to 10 acres with now seven tree varieties.
“Christmas trees are an agricultural crop — we plant in the late winter or early spring; usually two times the amount we sold the season prior, pruning in the spring, mowing throughout the year, maintaining and managing watering during the summer months, and pruning again in the fall,” Auraly says.
Then as soon as the selling season is over, they prepare for the next one. So even though everything leads up to their selling months in November and December, it is a long haul to ensure the crop meets the demand.
That being said, they “count every sellable Christmas tree on the farm to predict how many trees we can tag for sale,” and “some years we have more trees for sale and some years fewer,” she adds. Once the tagging is complete, “it’s full steam ahead!”
The farm is now run by Auraly and her husband Craig, who is the primary farmer, along with the help of their children Olivia and Andrew, as well as their significant others. The successful tree farm is full of uniqueness, implies Auraly.
She finds that even though not every tree can be perfect, they “have turned those imperfections into our misfit and rescue trees,” to which she adds that “customers have come to love this tradition, and we love that these trees get a second chance of sorts and a home for the holidays.”
Auraly and Craig love the “wooded oasis” of the farm but also thoroughly enjoy every November and December when they see the “joy that this place brings to others, and that really makes all the hard work worth it.”
Olivia relishes in the customers’ appreciation for the farm and how “they love the beauty of the place and ask about the redwoods which my grandpa planted over 60 years ago.”
She understands that the customers have sentiments towards the farm just like she does.
“They talk about coming to the farm when they were children, and now they bring their own kids and families out,” Olivia marvels.
Find a full story on the history of Hidden Springs Christmas Tree Farm in the December issue of Atascadero News Magazine / Paso Robles Magazine.
Hidden Springs Tree Farm is located at 3202 Monterey Road, Atascadero. Visit them online at hiddenspringschristmastreefarm.com.