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Hilmar Forest offers authentic Christmas experience
Michelle Barkhousen holds the tree as Hans and their children cut on Tuesday at Hilmar Forest. - photo by CANDY PADILLA/The Journal

Most people look forward to a certain moment when they know it’s officially the Christmas season, such as hearing Christmas music in the grocery store or bringing down decorations from the attic. But for some locals, the holiday season has only begun once they have made their way out to Hilmar to cut down their Christmas tree from Hilmar Forest.

Jan and Sam Minturn of Hilmar have owned and operated Hilmar Forest since 1970. The couple offers locals an authentic Christmas experience through their choose-and-cut tree farm. With customers hailing from Turlock, Patterson, Chowchilla, Los Banos and even Ripon, the Hilmar Forest experience is something many people have made an annual tradition.

“We hand you a saw as you come in and you drive out into the field to go out and cut down whatever tree you want. Most people bring trucks, which is great because they load up the trees themselves, but we do have people on hand to help them too,” said Jan Minturn.

For those looking for a less involved experience, Hilmar Forest also sells pre-cut fir trees from Oregon, which can take up to 15 years to grow. Hilmar Forest trees only take four to five years, which allows the Minturns to replant each year and always offer their customers a range of varieties including Monterey Pines, Incense Cedars, and Cyprus. Choose-and-cut trees range from $33 for 10 feet and under and $44 for taller trees while the pre-cut tree prices depend upon the variety and size.

Over 300 people flocked to Hilmar Forest last year and this year looks to be a promising year as well as tree lot opened the day after Thanksgiving and plans to be up and running until mid-December depending upon how fast the supply goes. Hilmar Forest is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

“People should come out here for the farm experience. The kids love it as they get to run around and here really push the family experience too, it’s a great place to make memories,” said Jan Minturn.