Ventura residents Kevin and Rhiannon Mikusky pulled up to Hagle Tree Farm in Somis in hopes of finding a Christmas tree before sundown on Tuesday evening.
The family-owned tree farm, which sells Monterey pines and Leland cypress trees, allows visitors to choose a tree and use a handsaw to cut it down.
The farm officially opens the day after Thanksgiving, and though the Mikusky couple arrived a few days too early, owner John Hagle let them have at it.
Rhiannon chose her perfect 7-foot tree, slipped dirt bike racing gloves on her hands and started sawing away at the tree’s trunk.
“It’s a lot harder than it looks,” said Rhiannon, who was out of breath.
Rhiannon said when she was growing up, she and her family chopped down a fresh tree to decorate at home every holiday season. The tradition is one she is continuing with her husband, Kevin.
SLOW GROWTH—John Hagle, owner of Hagle Tree Farm, and his sons, Benjamin & Ethan, oversee the tree farm on Somis Road.
“I will never get a fake tree,” Rhiannon said. “So we come (to Hagle Tree Farm) every year.”
Kevin took over the laborious process and sawed through the rest of tree’s trunk. He said buying the tree was something he had to do before Thanksgiving as he was going to be away from home during the holiday weekend.
Rhiannon said she was going to decorate the tree while he’s gone.
Hagle Tree Farm has been in business for 23 years and has about 14,000 trees growing on 14 acres.
Hagle, 49, along with his father and brother, bought the land when they opened Hagle Lumber Yard. Cattle were using the excess property for grazing when Hagle took a closer look at it.
“It was just sitting here with a bunch of debris and brush on it, and I said, ‘You know what, let me utilize the property,” he said.
Hagle decided on pine and cypress trees because they’re relatively low maintenance compared to other crops, such as strawberries.
The first crop was ready after four years—the time it takes to grow a full-size Christmas tree— and Hagle decided not to sell the trees to other vendors but to run a family-friendly choose-and-cut operation instead.
The farm is one of the largest choose-and-cut operations in California, which contradicts the typical image of Americans bundled in coats and scarves to pick a Christmas tree as it’s snowing.
“You get the high heels from Malibu and people asking us to tie trees to their Porsches,” Hagle added.
Hagle said it may be strange to see Christmas trees growing in California, but Somis has an enviable costal climate.
“We can’t grow noble fir Christmas trees because we’re not high enough in elevation, but Southern California is better for selling Christmas trees because the weather is so good here in December.”
Hagle and Hagle’s two sons, 21-year-old Ethan and 24-year-old Ben, sell about 1,000 trees every year but oversold their crop last year.
People chopped down smaller trees that were supposed to be this year’s bounty, which may limit this season’s selection. Hagle usually purchases pre-cut noble fir trees delivered from Oregon and bought a larger supply this year to fulfill the demand.
The increase in sales can be credited to Hagles commitment to serving the community through hosting larger events, such as concerts and hot chocolate by the fire nights, and partnering with nonprofits such as Casa Pacifica and FOOD Share.
The farm also offers hayrides, pony rides, a petting zoo stocked by the Las Posas 4-H club, a Santa impersonator and a snack shack with tri-tip sandwiches.
The Hagle Family loves the farm because they see the same families come out year after year.
“It sounds corny, but these people become your family, They send us their Christmas cards and pictures. We love it.”
Hagle Tree Farm opens today, Nov. 23.
Story from the Camarillo Acorn