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Bureaucratic boo-boo gives local tree farm unexpected publicity

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Jon West, owner of West’s Tree Farm on Berlin Road, finds social media and the Internet are a double-edged sword for his Christmas tree business.
On one hand, he said, many of his customers find him online, and people come from as far away as Bandon to get their perfect tree.
“So it helps us, but there’s some crazy things come out of it too,” West said.
For one, Google has provided wrong hours and directions for his business, he said. But more recently, an error from the White House drew attention to his little farm.
Melania Trump’s office released a press statement indicating the official White House Christmas tree would be coming from a farm in Oregon, according to a national news outlet. Later, the first lady tweeted that the tree would come from “Oregon’s West Tree Farm.”

WEST’S TREE FARM owner Jon West carries a fresh cut Christmas tree for a customer.

The first time West heard about it was when a news station in Portland called him and asked for a comment on being chosen for the White House tree, he said. They told him Gov. Kate Brown tweeted about it.
All erroneous press releases and tweets have since been fixed, and West said the governor’s office apologized to him for the error.
But in the short period of time that West’s Tree Farm was in the spotlight, the choose-and-cut farm received multiple calls from news stations, and even the locals talked about the big news, he said.
The fact is, the White House tree came from West Virginia.
“Us furnishing a Christmas tree for the White House is like saying the Corvallis Knights have winned the World Series. Different league; just not gonna happen,” West said. “We’re just a family operation, just out here enjoying life.”
West’s Tree Farm originated from an FFA project. West planted his first Christmas tree in 1971 while he was in high school, and harvested it in 1978. Since then, he, his wife and children have operated a Christmas tree business, which now spans 85 acres.
About 10 years ago, Christmas tree sales plummeted due to the recession.
“All the Christmas tree growers just about went broke because we couldn’t even hardly give them away,” West said.
Without income into their business, the farmers couldn’t invest more seedlings into their lots, he said. Since it takes eight to 10 years for those seedlings to be harvested, now is the season when the shortage of seedlings from the recession hits.

Heather Loveall adds bows to Christmas wreaths at West’s Tree Farm.

“In farming, you have to believe,” West said. “You have to believe that what you’re doing is going to amount to something. You have to believe that the seedling you’re putting in the ground is going to amount to something. I do it because I love being out here. I love forestry, I love the view here, I just love everything about it.”
West estimates about 10 percent of his lot is harvestable right now. He will also be short next year.
“Two years down the road, we’ll be at a break even, and then we’re gonna have a surplus after that,” he said.
But it seems COVID has brought an uptick in business this year, he said.
“People are so fed up of being cooped up at home, that they want to celebrate Christmas.”
Four years ago, he sold about 60 trees a day. The next year, he sold about 160 a day. This year, his business sold about 700 trees in one weekend, amounting to about 230 trees a day.
“People just swarmed out here,” West said. “That’s crazy for us because it wasn’t even December yet, but people are just wanting to celebrate Christmas, just to get out, because of COVID.”