SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. (KION) The turkey hasn’t even hit the table, but families in the Santa Cruz Mountains are already getting their head start on Christmas.
Crest Ranch Christmas Tree Farm is back open for the holidays, but only for a couple days. It's a tradition that brings families coming back year after year.
"I've been coming here for 66 years," said Colleen Clark, who now shares the tradition with her extended family. "We came as a family and we've just kept growing every year. It's great to be back here. Rain or shine, we've been here with snow and sleet and rain and wind. And we've never missed a year."
But Crest Ranch will only be open through Sunday, after last year’s CZU Fire destroyed 85% of their trees.
"It's about 50,000 trees, at various stages of growth, so it could be from a seedling to a fully mature tree. We had about 40 acres of trees. And now we're down to nine," said Louise Moran, owner of Crest Ranch.
Moran said they're incredibly grateful for the community's support, which has helped them start rebuilding and recovering.
"Our customers and the community have supported us with our Go Fund Me page that we still have up on our website," said Moran. "It went towards planting seedlings, doing irrigation and clearing out all the burnt trees, which makes it look beautiful here, almost like you didn't know it had happened."
Volunteers also came out to help clear trees and replant new seedlings. But Moran said it will still take them another five years to fully return, because Christmas trees take five to 10 years to grow on average.
"The community knows and it's great to see that the people who own this are going strong and that this can be here for another 60 years. Terrible to see the fire be so devastating," the Clark family added.
Moran said they're lucky that their remaining trees haven't been affected by the drought or heat this year. And there are still plenty of other tree farms in the Santa Cruz Mountains to support.
Ward Ranch near Bonny Doon opens Friday, and the owner said they have plenty of trees to go around this Christmas. Something that Crest Ranch said will help them carry on their tradition for years to come.
"We're encouraging people to go support other choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms. By helping them out, you're also helping us so you can carry on the tradition of a good old fashioned family time, getting a nice fresh tree opposed to a plastic tree and allowing us the five to 10 years that we'll need for the growth of the seedlings that we planted last year," said Moran.