Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tree Farm Felled By Water Costs

DeWayne Boccali at the family Christmas tree farm. Due to water prices and drought, this is likely the final year for the tree farm in Upper Ojai. The family is shifting to growing wine grapes, which require less water.

By Sondra Murphy
Drought and rising water rates have ended an Ojai tradition. Boccali Farms will be eliminating its cut-your-own Christmas tree business after this season.
“The interest is just not there anymore,” said Marilyn Boccali. “Our busiest year was 1989.” She said that people seem to be buying trees from pre-cut lots or else are purchasing artificial trees these days.
According to Boccali, pine trees, like pumpkins and oranges, take a lot of water. With customers waning, the decision not to replant was made. “We’re going to kind of miss it,” said Boccali. “The kids really liked it.” Not only was this customized tree hunt a Christmas tradition for many local families, but Boccali said that they used to get a lot of business from the Los Angeles area.
The Boccalis have begun to grow grapes for their wine making endeavors in the area once reserved for Christmas trees. “With Casitas water rates going up, grapes take less water to grow,” said Marilyn Boccali. Boccali Vineyard’s Topa Topa Syrah is sold at their restaurants in Ojai and Oak View.
“They raised the water rates so high, it was one of the deciding factors,” said DeWayne Boccali. “I feel really bad about it. I don’t like giving up on something.” He said that the trees take a lot of water to look attractive to customers. “When Casitas raised the water rates 51 percent, that’s one more thing I have to spend money on.”
DeWayne Boccali remembers that the Casitas reservoir was created for farmers. “Before that, we were dry farming up here.” After water was piped to Upper Ojai, that valley’s agriculture took off and Christmas tree farms were plentiful. “A lot of people came to Ojai to get their trees. It was amazing, we had all this competition, but we all did really well.”
DeWayne Boccali said that he expected his business to increase as the other tree farms shut down, but the opposite was true. “It’s kind of a real curious thing about Christmas trees. How times change,” he said.
“We may have a few trees left to sell next year, but I can’t promise anything,” said Marilyn Boccali. For more information about Christmas trees or the many other items they offer, visit boccalis.com.


it is what it is said...

How very sad. We always purchase are tree from them. It really is a sad day in the valley when the lake that was made for agriculture no longer suits its purpose. I vote we drain the lake and return the land to what it once was. Greedy water board.

Anonymous said...

Ok, sorry, but I was at Boccali's so called tree farm the last three years and there is no way anyone could call what was left at their so called tree farm a tree. It has appeared obvious that no one has maintained these "trees" for years. There were so few trees to choose from and of what was left, every single one had a side that had gaping holes in them. So please don't cry about not having any water for your charlie brown trees.
If you want to cut a truly beautiful tree go to Santa Paul. There is a true tree farm on 126 that has incredible trees and they are not expensive.