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Exporting Christmas joy


More than 300,000 trees are expected to emanate from Yamhill County this year

This year represents an uptick in the Christmas tree industry.

Bryan Ostlund of the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association (PNCTA) said after taking a “couple of hits” in the past — meaning a poor economy caused sales to drop — the many trees planted in 2002 and 2003 are finally being released.

He said this year there have been a lot of late sales.

“There’s certainly not a shortage, but the supply and demand is back on (track),” he said. “Growers are going to be happy.”

Yamhill County provides about 300,000 of the 6.5 million trees estimated to be sold in Oregon.by: GARY ALLEN - Harvesting while sun shines - Christmas tree growers throughout Yamhill County are busy harvested trees for export around the world and for the local market. Recent dry weather has been a boon to growers and harvesters, an unusual occurrence in late November.

“It’s a pretty big business for agriculture,” Ostlund said.

The harvest season is compressed, he said. Even those who get an early start, don’t begin harvesting until late October or early November, only a week or two before everyone begins mid-month.

“They are all going crazy now trying to get trees harvested,” Ostlund said.

Katie Waalkes of GW Trees and Oak Hills Tree Farm said right now they are only harvesting for their wholesale business.

“So far we’ll finish the first week of December. We’re looking forward to getting the U-cut open,” Waalkes said. “Labor is a little short, but it’s going well. We will have about 34,000 trees.”

Ostlund said labor shortage appears to be an issue this year.

“There’s always an issue,” he said. “With (Hurricane) Katrina it was getting trucks to the Pacific Rim. This year, it looks like a labor shortage.”

But he said it’s not too bad, just a minor struggle for farms to find contract workers.

Ninety-two percent of all trees harvested in the Pacific Northwest are exported, according to the PNCTA. Ostlund said Oregon primarily exports to the Pacific Rim.

“The biggest (customer) is Japan, then Hong Kong, Singapore and normally the Philippines as well, but we’re a bit unsure about this year (due to the recent typhoon devastating the area), Guam and a lot to Hawaii,” he said. “Hawaii always looks forward to when the trees come in.”

He said overall, Mexico is the largest importer of Northwest trees, but growers are expanding to South and Central America as well.

Most trees exported are Douglas fir as the Pacific Northwest is the world’s largest producer, according to the PNCTA. But Noble firs are second in demand at 45 percent of the total produced to the Douglas’ 47 percent.

As for demand, Waalkes said she’s noticed something a little different.

“This year there is more demand for table top trees,” she said. “I’m not sure if it’s because more people are living in apartments or older folks in smaller places. We grow a specific three-foot tree that’s sheered different. So it’s not half grown, but shaped specifically to be table top tree.”

To find local tree farms, visit www.nwchristmastrees.org.