Keeping Oregon's Christmas tree industry on top

December 11, 2007
Mike Bondi, Extension forestry agent, has helped grow a Christmas tree industry worth more than $100 million.Photo: Lynn Ketchum
Mike Bondi, Extension forestry agent, has helped grow a Christmas tree industry worth more than $100 million.Photo: Lynn Ketchum

OREGON CITY, Ore. – From your house to the White House, the centerpiece of this year's holiday decorations is likely to be a tree grown on the foothills of western Oregon.

Tree farmers, many from the Portland metropolitan area, have helped make Oregon the nation's leading producer of Christmas trees, harvesting about 7 million trees this year. Clackamas County is the largest producer of Christmas trees in the state, out-producing all but two other states in the United States. And all of those trees are grown on small, independent tree farms.

Researchers from Oregon State University Extension Service are helping these entrepreneurs grow an industry valued at more than $100 million a year in Oregon, an industry that promotes improved varieties of trees and environmentally sustainable methods of growing them.

That is the message that Mike Bondi is delivering to Oregon's major out-of-state tree market: California.

"It's a great story – a home-grown and green industry that provides jobs and sustains the economy," said Bondi, an OSU forester and staff chair of the Clackamas County office of OSU Extension Service. "People want to know that their holiday trees are a renewable, 100 percent recyclable product, grown by local farmers in ways that protect the environment and the consumer."

Bondi is working with the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association to deliver that green message to communities throughout California, where nearly half the Christmas trees grown in Oregon and Washington are sold.

"We want consumers to understand that when they go out to buy their tree for the holidays they are getting the added value of a renewable resource," Bondi said. "When one tree is cut from a Christmas tree farm in Oregon, another tree is planted in its place."

Years of research and development by Bondi and his OSU colleagues have contributed to the success and greening of the Oregon Christmas tree industry.

Consider the tree in your living room. It represents up to 15 years of research, testing, grafting and seed production before a new variety is available to growers. Then it may take another six to ten years in the field before the tree is ready for market.

"Our genetics work is focused on developing varieties of beautiful-looking Christmas trees that will keep their needles well after harvest," said Chal Landgren, an OSU Extension forester from Washington County. "In addition, we're helping tree growers maintain the long-term productivity of their soil, essential to the sustainability of the land and the industry."

"As you look at the variety of trees on the lot, keep in mind the many years of work that researchers and growers have put into providing real trees for Christmas," Bondi said.

Author: Peg Herring
Source: Mike Bondi, Chal Landgren