Califonia Bountiful

O Tannenbaum

November/December 2020 California Bountiful magazine

Farmer's trees help make the Christmas holiday

Jeri Seifert's year of work is about to culminate in happiness for many Christmas-tree buyers. Photo: Ching Lee

In the Solano County town of Dixon grows a family's created forest that's been delighting visitors at Christmastime for more than 40 years.

Jeri Seifert, who runs Silveyville Tree Farm with her husband, Ted, took over from her parents 20 years ago. Jerry and Alberta Taylor launched the farm in 1979 as a retirement dream, "and it grew into a huge family business," Seifert said—one that now includes a duck pond, quad rides, farm animals and a retail shop. The Seiferts also grow pumpkins for Halloween on the property.

You'll have two options for Christmas trees—buy one already cut and in a stand, or grab a saw and do the cutting yourself among the 30 acres of pines.

Pining for the perfect tree
If you cut down your own tree, you're probably going home with a Monterey pine or an incense cedar tied to the car roof. Those are Seifert's top two sellers. You might even decide you want a coastal redwood; the kind Seifert grows is called Aptos blue. "Not a great one for holding ornaments," she said, but "for a natural appeal, it's a really good seller."

Fir sure
Fir trees can't grow in Dixon, which is all of 86 feet above sea level, so Seifert brings in noble and Douglas firs grown in the mountains in California and elsewhere.

When the tree comes home …
Seifert recommends washing the tree with a garden hose and letting it dry in the garage before bringing it inside. Water it every day for a week, then check every other day thereafter. Also, avoid placing it near a heating vent, she said, as that's liable to dry out the tree.

Tree anatomy 101
So how does a tree absorb water once it's in your home? The cambium is key—that's the layer under the bark responsible for tree growth. Before sending a tree home with a customer, farm employees will recut the trunk to expose fresh cambium. Don't let the water run dry, Seifert said: "Once it does, just like a cut on your arm, it's going to heal over and then it's never going to drink moisture again, unless you were to recut that cambium layer."

You mean they grow all year?
"So many people's first question: What do you do all year long?" Seifert said. Plenty. First, there are the stumps left behind by the once-a-year lumberjacks; they need to be cut to soil level. New seedlings are planted as close to those stumps as possible in February and March. Seifert's two-person tree crew will prune the leader tips of existing trees to encourage them to grow faster and healthier. (The leader tip is where you're going to put the tree topper when you get it home.) And there's always weed control, checking for disease, fertilizing and irrigating.

A job for the kids
Seifert likes to recruit her youngest customers to look after the trees they've chosen to take home. She'll ask children, within earshot of their parents: "You look big enough to be able to water the tree. Why don't you make that your job every morning?" And why would Seifert do that? "Because a kid is going to make sure it's done."

What about the pandemic?
As with everything else, the farm has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and certain activities may be closed or restricted. As one example: Seifert had to cancel farm tours this year. Planning to visit Silveyville or another tree farm in your area? Call ahead.

Kevin Hecteman

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