Prior to his work as Christmas Tree Specialist, Chal Landgren had a 30-year career as a forester, best known for his work as Extension Forester for Columbia and Washington Counties. But Christmas Trees have long been an important aspect of Chal’s work and his livelihood as a grower himself since 1981. So, it was natural for him to take the job as Oregon’s Extension Christmas Tree Specialist in 2008. This position was created by the Oregon State Legislature, recognizing the importance of the Oregon Christmas Tree industry (No. 1 in the nation). Now, Chal is retiring after 42 years with OSU Extension Service.
Early in Chal’s college experience, he was inspired by the work of some visiting forestry professors and decided to switch from pre-med to forestry, completing his Bachelor's Degree in Forestry at Cal State Berkley in 1975. He went on to get his Master’s Degree in Silviculture and Forest Management at Utah State. While working as a forester for the US Forest Service in northern California, he heard about a job with OSU Extension where he was hired in 1979 as one of four new Extension Foresters. Chal was looking for an opportunity to help people learn and adopt successful practices and he found a great place to do that with Extension in Oregon.
Along with fellow Extension Agents Rick Fletcher and Mike Bondi, Chal has been a leader in the field of Christmas Trees, playing a crucial role in applied research and education to help tree growers. He is well known for his pioneering efforts in testing and identifying the best families of major native species like Douglas-fir, noble fir, and grand fir. And also for cultivating national and international connections to import, test, and deploy promising exotic species like Turkish, Nordmann, and Trojan fir.
When I look for published research to help me understand Christmas tree cultivation, I find Chal as an author on almost every aspect including tree nutrition, weed management, genetic selection, seed orchard production, pruning and culturing, disease and pest management, crop establishment and protection, economics, and more. His work provides a truly remarkable and valuable foundation and legacy in his field.
Reflecting on his career and accomplishments, Chal highlighted the results of over 30 years of progeny testing, development of guidance for fertilization and nutrient management, and the full portfolio of education materials he helped to produce. He also spoke of the many great collaborations he had with people in Extension and the industry as a very satisfying part of his career. You can see the results of Chal’s work on the landscape. Millions of Christmas trees growing across Oregon are the progeny of selected species and types he helped to develop in partnership with Christmas tree growers.
Chal will continue serving part-time through 2021 to work on a major new study of Trojan fir, Turkish fir, and Nordmann fir progeny from seed he obtained from their native forests in eastern Europe. Judy Kowalski, Research Technician and assistant to Chal for many years will continue working to help sustain the Christmas Tree program through 2021.
Looking to the future, Chal has high hopes for seeing his work continue with support from OSU. While the ups and downs of the economy create some uncertainty, it is clear that Forestry and Christmas Trees will be a big part of our future. Because the people of Oregon depend on trees for so much, it seems likely that they will support the continuation of work like Chal’s. We hope to recruit a new person who will strive to serve as well as Chal has for so many years.
Chal looks forward to retired life with his wife Susan, their children and grandchildren, who all live in the Pacific Northwest. He also expects to spend more time in pursuit of lifelong passions for photography, skiing, hiking, and tree farming.
Congratulations Chal! Thank you for all your work for the people and trees of Oregon.