Christmas tree supply takes a hit this year in Lebanon area

Nathan and Amanda Brown of Sweet Home took their two daughters to West’s Tree Farm this year as part of their family tradition.

“When I was younger, I was never able to have a real tree, so with the kids, they love coming out and picking out their own trees,” Amanda said.

Last year, West’s Tree Farm in Lebanon sold about 50 to 60 “you cut” trees a day. This year they’re seeing about 160 sold in a day.

For the Wests, that’s a surprising turnout, but part of the reason may be because they’ve had to sell some of their older trees at a reduced cost, they said.

Those older trees were ready for harvest at a time when Christmas trees sales had plummeted, and this year the nation is seeing an increase in demand and decrease in supply.

The National Christmas Tree Association reports there may be a shortage of Christmas trees this year mainly due to the great recession 10 years ago.

“In 2007, we were at the beginning of our recession and tree sales were down, prices were down, farmers didn’t have the space in their fields to replant because they weren’t harvesting as many,” NCTA spokesperson Doug Hundley told the San Francisco Gate.

It takes about eight to 10 years for a Christmas tree to be ready for harvest, so the lack of trees planted during the recession is starting to show its effect.

John West said he personally felt the hit along with his local counterparts, most of whom had to shut down their tree farms.

“The Christmas tree market 15 or 20 years ago was really good, so everybody planted,” he said. “It flooded the market, and on top of that the economy was bad a few years back, so there was way too many trees.”

His family business was able to barely scrape by during the recession, but they couldn’t plant more seedlings for a period of time, he said.

In addition to that, the supplier for the farm’s noble fir seedlings lost their stock to a flood, making the Wests unable to obtain noble firs for a couple years, added Nancey West. That’s the reason why their farm will be short on the popular firs for a period of time.

This year, the excess trees they had planted long ago and couldn’t sell are now too big to sell, John West said.

“We have lots of big trees, but there is a limited market for big trees,” he said.

They’ve offset the problem by cutting the top half of the trees into smaller, more desirable sizes, John said.

Hundley expects the shortage to last a couple of years, though he believes there should be enough trees for everyone. Nevertheless, he urged buyers to get their tree early to avoid slim pickings later on.


Need a tree? You have options

If the tree you want isn’t available through a commercial vendor, here are a couple of other local options:

  • Lebanon Future Farmers of America are selling Christmas trees through Sunday, Dec. 17, at 31000 LandLab Road, off Rockhill Drive in Lebanon. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.
  • Christmas tree permits to cut your own are available from Sweet Home Ranger District office at 4431 Highway 20 in Sweet Home, through Dec. 23. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Permits are also sold at Bi-Mart in Lebanon and Sweet Home, and DanDee Sales, Coffee Hut, Midway Grocery and Foster Lake Mall in Sweet Home.

Permits are $5 each. They allow the holder to cut one tree in designated areas; each household can purchase up to a maximum of five permits.

As part of the national Every Kid in a Park initiative, fourth-graders are eligible for a free holiday tree permit from the Willamette National Forest. Students must present a valid paper voucher printed from the Every Kid in a Park website, www.everykidinapark.gov, to receive a free tree permit.

The U.S. Forest Service cautions customers to prepare for the unexpected; dress in layers, bring a handsaw or axe, tire chains and a shovel. Bring extra food, drinking water, blankets, a flashlight, and a first aid kit. Tree cutting and travel may take longer than anticipated, so notify a friend or family member where you’re going, get an early start, and leave the woods well before dark.