Buying a Christmas tree is a long-standing holiday tradition but some obstacles are causing hardships on tree farmers and sellers.
Verlyn Aerni owns a tree lot in Cathedral City and his son owns one in Palm Desert, both called Aerni Family Tree Lot. While some are moving away from buying real trees, the Aerni family is doing its best to keep the holiday tradition alive.
“The beauty of us is we go through the fields and we select out in the fields the trees that we want to take,” Verlyn said.
He got in to the business through his father-in-law and has trained his own family in the business ever since. Almost fifty years later and he’s still planting and selling trees.
“I only work around the people that I care about and that I love,” he said. “So that’s a big thing.”
It’s a hard business, Verlyn said, but it’s worth it because of the people. Unfortunately, just like any type of farming, it has its phases.
“They’re two years old when we plant them and the last two years we’re losing fifty to sixty percent of our babies,” he said. “We’ve had unusually warm, warm weather.”
Plus, bigger farms keep trying to buy the family’s smaller farm. Verlyn confirmed he’d never sell it and plans on handing everything over to his son, Spike, who would later hand it on to his son.
While some are buying artificial trees to be cost efficient, Verlyn is combating that by selling more affordable trees; ranging from $15 to $350.
“They’re always consistent, their trees are always pretty, very good service,” Ruth Rosa, a customer of ten years, said.
“I have good years and bad years, money-wise, but I always have a good year when I come down here even if I don’t make much money.”
In the future, Verlyn said there’s a possibility another lot will open in the Coachella Valley.