The COVID-19 impact will affect the estimated multi million Oregon Christmas tree sales and operations, according to Oregon State University Extension Service Christmas tree specialist professor Chal Landgren.
“COVID will have an impact on both retail and U-cut sales this year,” Landgren said. “Impacts, like so many issues related to COVID, will really only be known after the season. Fires may impact seedling availability down the road as so many nurseries are growing trees to reforest burned areas.”
Landgren said statewide there has been drop in the number of Christmas tree growers.
“Those who remain are finding that prices are up and the supply is down,” he said.
According to the latest figures from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, In 2015, Oregon Christmas tree growers cut and sold 4.7 million trees, down 26% from 2010.
The gross sales for 2015 totaled $84.5 million, and the average price per tree was $17.90. This is the first time this study was repeated since 2011. There were 41,223 acres growing Christmas trees, down 28% from 2010, with nine counties making up the majority of the acres. The two largest counties growing trees were Clackamas County with 11,512 acres growing trees and Marion County with 10,571 acres.
At the Landgren Christmas Tree Farm in Warren, co-owner Sue Landgren said the farm will not be open for u-cut service this holiday due to the pandemic.
“We regret that we won’t have the u-cutting available because of COVID,” she said. “We have many u-cut customers and we love them but this is not a safe year for the u-cutting.”
Jerry Reinhold owner of Trenholm Tree Farm, at 62313 S. Canaan Road in St. Helens, said he was undecided about the specifics of his 12-acre noble tree sales, but he said he was considering a plan that would closely follow the state’s pandemic health and safety guidelines.
“I likely will sell them pretty cheap,” he said. “One price at $50. The COVID rules have to be strictly followed. It’s not about the money.”
Reinhold said the sales would begin the day after Thanksgiving and closely follow social distancing requirements and guidelines.
Darlene Marquardt owner of Marquardt Farms, at 53680 McKay Drive in Scappoose, said she will be offering both u-cut and lot trees.
“But we have changed things up due to COVID,” she said. “We normally offer hot chocolate and cider with the tree sales but this year we are not doing that and we are following social distancing.”
Tree customers can pay in person as well as through a self-paid station as well at the Marquardt farm and the gift shop will be open with limited customer access due to social distancing requirements.
Marquardt said pre-cut tree prices will range from $25 to $70 depending on the tree and its size. U-cut prices will be $25 for Douglas firs and $35 for other trees.
Oregon Christmas Tree Growers Association President Tom Norby, of Trout Creek Tree Farm in Corbett, said the most popular Christmas tree sought by consumers continues to be the noble fir.
“It has great long term keep-ability in a home,” he said, “and it also has very good needle retention.”
Growing in popularity is the Nordman fir, or it’s nearly identical cousin the Turkish fir. Both have the same qualities as the noble, according to Norby.
“They take about another year to get to maturity but there are some other positive grower aspects to the species,” he said. “They are starting to do a lot more research on this tree, so look for its presence to grow in the marketplace.”
The Douglas fir, while not sustaining the keep-ability, has a very distinctive scent and will be available at a much lower price point, Norby said, adding that Oregon’s grand fir is losing favor with many tree farmers due to particular aspects to growing it and its lower profit margin.
Norby said a few growers this year reported having some interior needle issues on some of their noble fir trees.
“My guess is it is mostly related to the trees being stressed by a long and mostly dry summer,” Norby said. “At this point it does not look like this will effect supply as there are enough good trees to fill customers orders.”
As to why Christmas trees have such appeal, Norby gave The Chief this response.
“Christmas trees have their roots in pagan history when they would use greenery in their mid-winter celebrations,” he said. “In modern times, I think it has to do with bringing a little green and life into the home in the depths of winter that makes us feel good. It is a reminder that spring will come again.”