farmophile

Field notes from California's North Central Valley

Forest for the tree: Jacob Mini Farm

When I first called Emily J. Amy of Jacob Mini Farm about coming out to cut a Christmas tree, she gave me a warning: These may not be my vision of Christmas trees. They’re not all perfectly conical. I wouldn’t find any noble firs or silver tips.

“They just don’t grow here; it’s too hot,” she said. “We grow what grows around here.”

That means Douglas fir, giant sequoia, incense cedar, and Scotch pine.

Sounded like just what I was looking for.

Jacob Mini Farm, open every day from Dec. 1-23, sits alongside Putah Creek between Davis and Winters, Calif. My husband, daughter, mom and I visited the farm recently to get Mom a Christmas tree.

We were warmly greeted at the entrance, told that every tree, big or small, is $35. Then we were handed a saw and told to set forth.

I’ve been to tree farms where single species are perfectly spaced in rows across a plot of land. I’ve also wandered through National Forest lands to hunt for my own “wild” Christmas tree—saw in one hand, permit and tag in the other. This was somewhat of a cross between the two—not quite forest, not quite typical tree farm.

The Christmas trees at Jacob Mini Farm stretch across roughly 5 acres, wrapped around the farmhouse, some sheds, and a small barn that houses a petting zoo of sorts—some docile donkeys named Barney and Elmer, a sheep, a goat and some chickens. And while my daughter, Lily, loved wandering through the “forest,” the animals were the highlight for her—she imitated them as only a 2-year-old can.

Sprinkled throughout the evergreens are pecan trees, which act as a shade canopy for the rather thirsty Christmas trees. Pecans tend to drop from the trees during the Christmas tree season, and u-pickers are welcome to collect them. Last year was a phenomenal year for pecans, said Emily. This year, not so much. But pecans tend to produce every other year, so the trees should be more generous next year.

Emily’s parents, Janet and Fred Jacob, first started selling trees from the farm in 1956, mostly to friends and co-workers. Over the years, more trees were added. Emily bought the farm from her mom about 15 years ago. In 1998, she added two areas that were previously fruit trees and pasture grass.

“It has just evolved,” she said.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the relatively unique way the trees are cut. U-pickers are asked to leave a whorl of growth at the bottom of their selected tree, so that future trees can grow from it.

This does mean more pruning work for Emily, but she decided to follow what her parents started.

“They were of the mind that instead of killing the tree, just use a part of it,” said Emily. “My parents wouldn’t have considered themselves ‘progressive environmentalists.’ In the ’50s that wasn’t a term you’d hear. But they were pretty conscientious about things.”

As my mom perused the selection of trees, my husband picked up some walnuts that had fallen on the ground and cracked them open for me and Lily. They were some of the best-tasting walnuts I’d ever eaten. Lily ran through the trees, petted the animals, and we all enjoyed the fresh air at this laid-back country tree farm.

My mom left with a 7-foot tall incense cedar, cut, carried and strapped to the car by my husband. We left with the sense that we’ll be back next year.

THE NUTSHELL

Jacob Mini Farm is open every day, from Dec. 1-23, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. It’s located at 34905 Creeksedge Road, between Davis and Winters, Calif. The farm is only open during December; if you’d like to come during another time of year, or would like more information, call them at (530) 753-3037.

For sale: U-cut Christmas trees, u-pick pecans, evergreen boughs and mistletoe. A small farm stand also sells whatever the farm has produced at that time, which is typically apples, walnuts, persimmons, oranges and pecans.      

Special considerations for Christmas trees grown in the Davis area: Unlike in their native areas, evergreens here don’t experience a hard freeze—and neither does their sap.

“The sap in the tree is equivalent to the blood in your body,” says Emily. “It runs nutrients through the body.”

So for locally grown Christmas trees, expect a higher than usual sap-flow and a thirstier tree during the first week or so after it’s cut.  After that, their thirst slacks somewhat.

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3 thoughts on “Forest for the tree: Jacob Mini Farm

  1. hi Kat,
    cool blog! I’m forwarding your url to Nick (nickam@newsreview.com) who programs our green section — if you felt like it, I’d love to have you contribute. Some of your blog topics could fit right in …
    hope you’re well!
    Melinda

    • Thanks, Melinda, on both counts. I’m doing this as a bit of a creative outlet for myself–and hopefully a helpful resource around here–but will give that some thought! Be well –Kat

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