A Brief History of Crest Ranch
12200 Empire Grade
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
CREST RANCH was originally operated as a vineyard. It was first planted in wine grapes in the latter part of the 1800's.
In 1941 Howard Nielsen purchased the 116-acre spread, however running a winery didn't appeal to him. In the late 1940's, he ripped out the vines, studied tree farming, then imported and planted 10,000 Douglas Fir seedlings from Washington State.
His "tree plantation" was a new approach to producing and selling Christmas trees in California. At that time the standard procedure was to harvest trees growing in natural or wild timber stands. In fact Crest Ranch is the oldest "Choose and Cut" tree farm in the Western United States.
The first year Nielsen planted, his entire crop died. By the early 1950s, however, thousands of trees had taken hold. He experimented with a number of trees brought back from his travels abroad. Many of these experiments are still available at Crest Ranch.
In 1973, Nielsen sold the ranch to Fred Jensen, a Danish born landscape contractor in Los Altos. He and his wife Terry operated the farm until January of 2015, when Fred sold the Tree farm (45+ acres) to his daughter Louise Jensen-Moran. Louise and her husband Ed operate the farm carrying on the family tradition. You are sure to see them if you come visit.
Families have been coming to Crest Ranch since 1952. For many, the experience of selecting a tree in the beautiful surroundings of Crest Ranch has become a family tradition enjoyed year after year.