U-Cut Christmas Tree Farms in Sebastopol
December 6, 2011Posted by pamela |
If you haven't already done so, it's time to start thinking of getting that must-have of the holiday season—the Christmas tree. There are those practical people who merely unpack the artificial tree from its storage boxes, and assemble it in the living room, pre-wired, perfectly shaped and sized, and flame-resistant. Then there are those of us who have to have the real deal, despite the inconvenience. For the hopeless romantics among us, nothing beats the experience of going to a honest-to-goodness genuine Christmas tree farm, getting our hands dirty, and cutting a tree down ourselves. Of course it's a great family photo op and usually a lot of fun, too, and those annual trip to the Christmas tree farm remain some of my fondest childhood memories.
Unfortunately, there aren't any Christmas tree farms in Marin County anymore (the last one—in Olema—closed down years ago). To get the real Christmas tree farm experience within close proximity to Marin, you have to head north to rural Sonoma County. Most tree farms seem to be clustered around Sebastopol and Petaluma, with a few near Sonoma and Santa Rosa. We recently checked out three Christmas tree farms sited in the rolling hills southwest of Sebastopol: Garlock Tree Farm, Reindeer Ridge Tree Farm, and Frosty Mountain Tree Farm. Christmas tree farming is definitely a family business—all the farms are operated by branches of the same family.
Garlock Tree Farm
Garlock Christmas tree farm is located at 2275 Bloomfield Road, on ten acres of conifer-covered countryside, where they've been growing and selling Christmas trees since 1966. They offer an assortment of tree varieties, including Douglas fir, White fir, Monterey pine, Scotch pine, sequoias, and pre-cut Noble firs. Saws and carts are available, and for an nominal extra fee they'll shake your tree free of loose needles and any creepy-crawlies that may have taken up residence in it, bundle it for easier transport, and even install a stand. For the past two years we've cut down our Christmas trees at Garlock's.
Like many area tree farms, they offer complimentary coffee and candy canes. As an added bonus, they also offer free horse-drawn carriage rides (weather permitting) around the farm, which are a lot of fun. On days when the horses aren't available, tractor-drawn rides are offered. There's a small gift shop where ornaments, tree-related paraphernalia, and snacks like popcorn, hot dogs, cookies, and hot apple cider are available. There's a picnic area on the grounds, too, in case you'd like to bring your lunch and dine al fresco.
The service at this family-run farm is friendly and we found ourselves chatting with several generations of the family. If all that isn't enough, there's also a bounce house, a petting zoo, and pony rides from Petaluma's Victoria Fashion Stables, all of which cost a few bucks extra.
This year Garlock Tree Farm is open through Sunday, December 18, Fridays from noon to 5 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am to 5 pm. For more information, visit their website at garlocktreefarm.com or call (707) 823-4307. There's a printable coupon on the website for $5 off any pre-cut Noble fir.
Reindeer Ridge Farm
More-or-less around the corner from Garlock Tree Farm, at 3500 Mariola Road, is Reindeer Ridge Farm. Offering pretty much the same tree selection and services as the Garlock's, Reindeer Ridge had tractor-drawn hay rides and kiddie train rides and a gift shop and snack bar in a large shed. Santa Claus was on hand the day we visited to hand out candy canes and chat about Christmas lists with the kids.
The gift shop, with a warm fireplace blazing merrily away in one corner, offered a wide variety of ornaments, crafts, and Christmas decorations. The snack bar served up popcorn, hot cider, coffee, and hot dogs and bratwurst from the grill outside. You can also play foosball if you want.
Outdoor attractions include tractor-drawn hay rides, a couple friendly donkeys to visit, and a kids' playground with swingsets, a big tractor tire swing and a zip line. The views from Reindeer Ridge are pretty spectacular, too, so bring your camera.
Reindeer Ridge Farm is open weekdays 11 am to 6 pm, weekends 9 am to 6 pm. Call (707) 829-1569 for information or visit www.reindeerridge.com. Print a coupon from their website for $5 off any Monterey pine or pre-cut Noble fir. You'll also get free apples (this is Sebastopol, after all) with your tree purchase.
Frosty Mountain Tree Farm
Frosty Mountain Tree Farm, at 3600 Mariola Road, is directly adjacent to Reindeer Ridge Farm. It's literally just on the other side of the fence, and people were walking down the road from one farm to the other during our visit.
Frosty Mountain, like the other two farms we visited, offers a variety of trees ranging from cut-your-own Douglas firs, Monterey pines, and Sequoia redwoods to pre-cut Noble firs from Oregon. They'll also shake your tree, bundle it with netting, and drill a hole for stand-mounting for free. Stands are sold on-site, too.
Free tractor-drawn hayrides are offered, and there are farm animals for children to visit. In the big red barn, a former apple-packing shed, there's Santa's Workshop, a large gift shop selling the requisite ornaments, wreaths, garlands, and other holiday stuff, as well as Mrs. Claus' Kitchen, offering hot cider, popcorn, apple fritters, and cookies. Mrs. Claus herself was available for storytelling and a meet-and-greet with the kids.
There was also a coffee truck operated by Hardcore espresso, which, while quirky in a western Sonoma County sort of way (if you know what I mean), makes a really good cup of coffee.
Frosty Mountain Tree Farm is open weekdays from noon to 5 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm. Information: www.frostymountaintreefarm.com or (707) 829-2351.
All three farms accept cash, checks, and credit cards.
More things to do and directions
It's also fun to stop by Twin Hill Ranch, located nearby at 1689 Pleasant Hill Road. The centerpiece of this working apple farm is a huge barn full of crafts, food items including apple pies, breads, and juice, a snack bar serving hot dogs and homemade chili, and a cozy open fireplace. There's also a picnic area with a spacious lawn. Twin Hill Ranch is open daily until Christmas from 9 am to 5 pm. Pick up a coupon good for a free bag of apples at either Garlock's or Frosty Mountain. Information: www.twinhillranch.com (707) 823-2815
From Marin, take 101 North to the Gravenstein Highway (116) exit and head west towards Sebastopol. Turn left onto Bloomfield Road and follow it to where it intersects with Kennedy Road. To reach Reindeer Ridge and Frosty Mountain, head onto Kennedy Road and turn left onto Mariola Road. To get to Garlock Tree Farm, continue south on Bloomfield Road.
To get to Twin Hill Ranch, head west on Bloomfield from Highway 116, and continue on as it becomes Pleasant Hill Road (Bloomfield continues to the south where it intersects Kennedy). Follow Pleasant Hill Road north to Elphick Road. Turn right on Elphick, then follow the signs to Twin Hill Ranch.
There are plenty of other tree farms in the Sebastopol area. To see a listing, go to the Sonoma County Farm Trails website: www.farmtrails.org.