Oregon Christmas tree industry ‘tough last few years’

Many fewer trees sold, grown since 2010

Rows of trees at a Christmas Tree farm in Oregon. (KOIN)
Rows of trees at a Christmas Tree farm in Oregon. (KOIN)

SHERWOOD, Ore. (KOIN) — Rows of Christmas trees dress the Willamette Valley in Sherwood, where there are mor fir trees than people.

Jon Schatz of Sunny Day Tree Farm has spent a decade preparing all types of trees — Noble-fir, Douglas-fir, Nordmann-fir — for Christmas.

According to the USDA, Oregon Christmas tree growers cut and sold 4.7 million trees in 2015 — down 26% from 2010.

In 2015, more than 41,000 acres were growing Christmas trees — down 28% from 2010.

The Sunny Tree Farm in Sherwood, Oregon. (KOIN)
The Sunny Tree Farm in Sherwood, Oregon. (KOIN)

Less trees, less growing acres equals a shortage.

“The Christmas tree industry has been tough the last few years,” Schatz told KOIN 6 News. “Prices have been suppressed, so a lot of farmers in Oregon are struggling and not putting as many trees into the ground.”

He said the trees take 9 to 11 years to grow and “it’s a tough guess” what the economy will be when looking a decade ahead.

Part of the issue is trying to match the tree seedling business with the Christmas tree farms, he said.

“The nurserys are playing the same guessing game. They’re trying to get the seed source and grow the seedlings to provide for the farmers and if the farmers are not buying as many seedlings and the seedlings are grown it’s an entire cycle within the industry and everyone is trying to guess what everyone else is going to need.”

That turns the Christmas tree farms to other commodities the Willamette Valley produces, including grapes and hazelnuts.

“They’re going out of business because the next generation doesn’t want to do the work,” Schatz said, “and the Christmas tree business has been suppressed for so long that people don’t make any money doing that.”

You’ll be able to find a Christmas tree this year, but it may cost more. The USDA said a fresh cut tree will cost around $40 — money that will help keep Christmas tree farms producing.

Schatz stressed the most environmentally-friendly option is still to buy a fresh-cut tree, not an artificial one.