O Christmas Tree

Oregon State University Extension agent Rick Fletcher (right) visits a Christmas tree grower in Oregon. Photo by Lynn Ketchum.
Oregon State University Extension agent Rick Fletcher (right) visits a Christmas tree grower in Oregon. Photo by Lynn Ketchum.

One of Rick Fletcher’s boyhood memories is of hunting Christmas trees on his family’s southern Oregon ranch. “I was 8 years old, and I was wading through snow up to my waist, dragging these trees out of the woods," said Fletcher. "We’d truck them south and sell them at our family’s lot in Los Angeles.”

The trees, of course, were the forest-grown kind: sparse-limbed, flat-sided, bent-stemmed—the only choice in those days. By the time Fletcher grew up and joined the forestry faculty of the Oregon State University Extension Service, things were changing. Plantation-grown trees—straight, sturdy, bushy, and vividly green—have become a huge industry in Oregon, thanks in large part to Fletcher and his OSU Extension colleagues.

In 1955, before Fletcher was wading in the snow, Hal Schudel and Paul Goodmonson bought their first Christmas-tree farm near Kings Valley and planted Douglas-fir seedlings. Their enterprise grew to become Holiday Tree Farms, now headquartered in Corvallis and the largest grower of Christmas trees in the nation. Schudel and other pioneering growers relied on information from OSU Extension agronomists as they were developing a new farm crop from scratch. Over time, OSU Extension foresters learned along with the burgeoning industry, and soon their research on stock improvement, fertilization, pest management, and markets became indispensable to regional growers.

Today, Oregon is the nations leading producer of Christmas trees, and this adds more than $110 million to Oregon’s economy. Fletcher still visits with Hal Schudel and compares notes on the best way to grow a Christmas tree.

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