Santa's Forest Christmas Tree Farm only selling precut Christmas trees this year

No longer a place to cut down your own tree

SHAFTER, Calif. - Going to pick out a Christmas tree on the Friday after Thanksgiving is tradition for a lot of families. For many people, the tradition is cutting down their own tree. 

One Christmas tree farm in Shafter is having to do things differently this year.

For the past 30 years, people went to Santa's Forest Christmas Tree Farm to cut their own tree. This year is the first year Santa's Forest is only selling precut trees.

What was a tradition for many families for years, decades, or even generations, is no more this year.

"There's a lot of sadness that we don't do it anymore, since we were, I think the last choose and cut trees in Kern County," Gary New, co-owner of Santa's Forest Christmas Farm said.

But even with no 'choose and cuts' available, the loyal people were coming back, even on the first day they opened, New said. 

Santa's Forest was where you'd go to cut down your own tree in Kern County. This year was the first time Bakersfield resident, Amy Patterson, went home with a precut tree. 

"My mom took us every year to cut down a tree," Patterson said. "And then we got married, we started the tradition with our kids."

The lasting effects of the drought and a tree shortage left owners Gary and Judy New to only selling precut trees this holiday season. 

"We don't know when the drought's coming back, and prices don't go down just because the drought went away, you know, temporarily," New said. "It just seemed like everything was going up, up, up."

The News bought the farm in 1976. They started selling Christmas trees in 1984. The couple sold 'choose and cut' trees for the past 30 years, and precut trees for the past 20 years.

On top of issues from the drought, 'choose and cuts' require more employees to maintain, New said. 

"It's actually less work for us," New said. "Choose and cut trees have to be trimmed twice a year, in the hot summer it doesn't matter. You have to shape them, and you have a bug problem, and a water problem, it just goes on and on and on."

Last year, New let his customers know 2016 was the final year for cutting down your own tree at Santa's Forest. 

While the Pattersons weren't able to take turns sawing down a tree like they had in the past, they returned to Santa's Forest on Friday to continue their family tradition as best as they can.

"This is what we do," Patterson said. "We all come and pick the favorite tree, and then try to get dad to choose the one they chose."

New said while his customers are a little disappointed this year with only precut trees available, they're adapting to the change and still returning.

"It's a place I would like to take my family, that's always been the criteria for what I do," New said.

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