Written by Mitali Shukla

Published on Dec. 7

The pandemic has had a massive financial toll on small businesses. Yet there’s one commercial venue that’s managed to thrive during the pandemic: Christmas tree farms. 

“COVID-19 actually increased our business as an outdoor facility,” said Jerri Riddle, an employee at the Peltzer Pines Christmas tree farm in Brea, California. “The farm has over 4,000 trees and it’s so wide open that you don’t really have to worry about being six feet apart.” 

Peltzer’s customer base has grown significantly this holiday season, as has the variety of people that attended their farms, according to Riddle, who has worked at Peltzer for 25 years. 

“We’ve gone from traditional families that have been doing it for generations all the way to new ones who just found out about it and wanted something to do outdoors with their family,” she said. “It’s the parents who are bringing their kids who bring the grandkids as a family tradition.”

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Peltzer, however. They also own a farm in Silverado, California, which is now being threatened by the Bond Fire’s eruption

“Over in Silverado, they are trying to save the trees from the fire as we speak,” Riddle said Dec. 3.

Despite damage to some of the farm’s trees, the location in Brea is still open to the public. Tree farm attendees are also presented with a variety of treats to christen the holiday season. 

“The time that people spend trying to find their perfect tree is different for everyone so we have things we offer to occupy that time,” Riddle said. “We serve breakfast and we have different vendors come in that sell candy, cookies and hot cocoa.”

To ensure the safety of customers’ experience, the farm doesn’t allow guests to stay in the same spot for longer than 10 minutes, in order to keep guests moving. Additionally, employees and customers are required to wear face masks, as required by the Orange County Health Care Agency’s order

“We’ve put plexiglass between the staff and the customers,” Riddle said. “All of our employees wear facial coverings even in the heat that we’ve had. In that way, everyone feels truly safe because it is outdoors and it’s the one thing we’re still allowed to do.”

There’s still a demand for the welcome atmosphere that a tree provides. Ellie Hood, a senior strategic and corporate communication major, said they’re a family tradition. 

“I absolutely, 100% prefer real Christmas trees. They’re better for the environment, they smell better and I grew up with them,” Hood said. “I grew up going with my family, picking out the one that we wanted, putting water in its stand and taking care of it.”

During a typical year, Hood and her family would pick out a Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving and then decorate that same day. However, in 2020, she instead chose to stay in California during Chapman’s Thanksgiving break and helped her mother decorate the tree at her family’s home in Tampa, Florida, via Skype. 

“I try to find the silver lining in everything. There’s been a lot of stress this year; there’s been a lot of sadness,” Hood said. “It’s opened my eyes to the importance of family. Not being able to be there for Thanksgiving was definitely the wake up call to be there more.”

When asked about what customers should take away from their experience at Peltzer Pines, Riddle said it only takes one visit to create a family tradition that lasts through generations.

“The joy of picking out a tree together, bringing it home, the smell and decorating it is a family tradition,” she said. “It’s a great tradition to start with your family. Live-grown Christmas trees last longer and they’re grown right here in our own backyard.”