SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Just about the time you run out of this country, you run into Rancho Noel. Located in the town on Potrero and across the street from the county park, and stone's throw from the Tecate border, this 12-acre Christmas tree plantation has plenty of backstory.
On May 2, 2007, I visited with Mike Brown, whose family had owned the farm for 15 years. Back then, it was known as Farmer Brown's Christmas Trees, and was a popular destination for families who wanted to cut down their own Monterey pine. At that time, due to family health issues, Mike was ready to sell.
Just five and a half months later, on October 19, 2007, the Harris Fire roared through Potrero, taking down everything in its path. The tree farm was miraculously spared, but with the town evacuated and no electricity to pump wells, the Monterey pines were in peril.
In October 2008, Gary Noel bought the farm, renamed it Rancho Noel, and has been working for the last three years to return it to its former glory.
"People have been coming here for 25 years," Gary said. "We cut about 500 trees this year already."
Looking out from his porch on a rainy Potrero morning, Gary sees more than 12 acres of healthy pines.
"It's not a tree, it's a tradition," he said.
And that's what Christmas is all about: tradition.
25655 Potrero Park Drive
Potrero, CA 91963