Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas…Tree

Keeping Tradition Alive at Mountain View Farm

I first met Joe McNally at the California Worldfest in 2008. I volunteered for setup and teardown and he was leading many of the pre-festival projects and backstage. I found out that festival production was not the focus of Joe’s life and that he owned a cut-your-own Christmas tree farm as well. The idea intrigued me as I have a certain inexplicable affinity for all things Christmas. Come 2010 I found myself up in Paradise working beside Joe at Mountain View Christmas Trees.

Joe owns and runs the farm with his wife, Anne. He originally lived in a little house next door, but purchased the neighboring 40-acre property and decided to put it to work. Christmas trees were his chosen crop. After a few seasons of preparation, logging and clearing the fields, he planted the first trees on the property in 1981. Joe has been a tree man ever since.

The farm’s mission statement is clear: Preserve an age-old holiday tradition in a sustainable manner through the use of local businesses, labor, and products. The holiday spirit is in abundant supply up on the farm and so is a sense of environmental stewardship. Mountain View Christmas Trees educates patrons about the increasing wastefulness that comes with the holiday season and ways to defray that waste. They point out that every year around Christmas our carbon dioxide emissions spike due to holiday food consumption, travel, extravagant lighting, and shopping. Most trees you find at lots are shipped all the way from Washington or Oregon. A tree planted, grown, and harvested at Mountain View Christmas Trees removes that shipment from the equation.

When I asked Joe why people should come up to his farm as opposed to shopping at a tree lot, he said, “we really sell an experience; people just go home with a tree.” That’s the deal with Joe and his farm. He does it because he likes it. He likes fixing his own tractors and raising the farm animals. On the farm Joe says, “we do things people forgot how to do in our fast-paced world.” He has built a way of life that he values and he shares it with the people visiting Mountain View Christmas Trees.

Visiting the farm is an experience. The farm is nestled on the rim of the Feather River Canyon. The crops of trees blanket the perimeter of the farm and there is a stable – homey and quaint – with a bonfire to accompany it. The braying of donkeys and goats serve as ambient background music for the scenery. Upon arrival, guests are handed a saw and a map. These are the tools for hunting down the perfect tree – the embodiment of the Christmas spirit!
Families embark on an arduous adventure to find the tree that really sings to them. (Unfortunately actual singing trees are not yet available. Get the scientists working on that!) Once they have found their tree, the family gets the satisfaction of watching Dad hack away at its stump, cursing and throwing his back out in the process, as the tree cascades towards the ground. The excitement culminates with the family triumphantly enjoying hot cocoa by the fire and admiring the freshly cut tree tied to the minivan.

I have a personal connection with Mountain View Christmas Trees. I work there. I know the owners, the employees, and some of the customers. They are husbands and wives, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. It’s good to know the tree you cut down at the farm is a local product. The existence of businesses like this is one of most important facets of a community. It seems to me a rebellion against the box-stores that want us all to buckle to convenience and buy the same homogenous products that we don’t really need. Sustaining what we have locally and making the effort to support the guy living next to you is a philosophy that extends beyond Christmas trees and is something we should all nurture and carry far beyond the holiday season.

The Mountain View Christmas Tree Farm is open the day after Thanksgiving through December 23rd. Their operating hours are 1PM-6PM Monday through Friday, and 9AM-6PM Saturday and Sunday.

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