CORBETT, OR -- Thanksgiving is still more than a week away, but this is the busiest time of the year for Oregon Christmas tree growers. Most local tree lots won’t open until after Thanksgiving, but shipments of trees are already heading out. "Right now, some of the early trucks that are going out are going out much farther," says Trout Creek Tree Farm owner Tom Norby, "I have a truck going to New York City."
He tells the Oregon Radio News Network refrigerated containers of trees from his Corbett farm are also headed to China, Indonesia and other overseas markets, "From my place, it goes directly to an ice plant, where they blow in a couple of tons of ice over the top of it, just to add some moisture and keep it cool. And the whole idea is to never unplug that thing and just keep it cold the whole way over there."
Oregon is the top Christmas tree producer in the nation, growing around five million Christmas trees every year. But the last few years' crops were mired by summer heat and fall drought. But, Norby says this year is more typical, "We’ve gotten some moisture this fall, which was very good. Because the last couple of years it’s been pretty dry going into the major part of the harvest season."
Norby, who is also President of the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Growers Association, says the strong harvest keeps prices stable, "The wholesale growers, in general that I’ve spoken with, have kept prices pretty similar to last year. They realize that inflation is a thing and they want to sell their trees and they want to do right by their customers." But that doesn't mean families won't pay more, "There’s a lot of other factors: trucking, fuel, labor costs on the other end - that actual retail end. So, what you’re going to pay at the lot is probably going to be a little bit more, but hopefully not a whole lot."
Oregon Christmas trees are a $200 million a year business. Norby says, "Our Christmas tree industry, here in Oregon, really supports a lot of families and has a very big impact all across the state."