By Stacia Kalinoski
ELMIRA, Ore. — The brilliant fall colors are eye-catching right now, but soon Oregon Christmas trees will be in the spotlight.
Christmas trees are Oregon’s number eight export.
Oregon’s Christmas tree industry is expected to bring in about $125 million this year, and the economic impact on Oregon is about three times that, according to Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Growers Association Executive Director Bryan Ostlund.
And that money benefits many more industries than just the tree farms.
The skies are still clear; the grass is still relatively green. But for Elmira farmer Peyton Carroll, Christmas tree season is already here.
“We plant 10,000 or more trees a year,” Carroll said.
About 70 percent of those head to Hawaii.
Over in Cheshire, nearly all of farmer Kirk Stroda’s 35,000 trees are bound for California.
So what does Oregon get in return? From Stroda’s farm alone, it’s an estimated $700,000 annually.
“That money is coming back into Oregon, going through our pockets,” Stroda said.
But it’s not just the farmers’ pockets. Consider every other Oregon industry that benefits from the state’s 750 tree farms, 90 percent of whom export out of state and to Mexico, according to Ostlund.
“There’s containers going to Hawaii,” Carroll said. “[There’s] fertilizer and chemicals for the trees.”
“[There’s] rain gear outfits, NW Safety, is who we buy our rain gear from. Gloves, boots, the outfits that sell chain saws,” Stroda said. “[There’re] restaurants in the small towns where the truckers come and have to spend the night, so they can get their load the next morning.”
And don’t forget ropes, farm equipment, nurseries, seedling, trucks, fuel, and another form of transportation.
“The helicopter. That’s another local, keep money local,” Stroda said.
But there’s not as much money coming in as previous years.
Oversupply and a weak economy have caused Carroll’s orders to fall nearly 50 percent from three years ago.
Still, local experts are expecting a relatively good year. And like every year, it’ll be one Stroda doesn’t take for granted.
“They got a tree in the house for when the kids come down Christmas morning and the presents are underneath. You get a good feeling it’s something more than just a bigger picture than us here,” Stroda said.
While these trees are currently eighth on Oregon’s export list, the Ostlund expects that number to start falling in the next two years, with some Christmas tree farms going out of business as baby boomer farmers start to retire.