Still need a tree? Time and options are running low
Industry has seen a decline in farms selling Christmas trees in recent years.
Woodburn-area residents looking to cut their own tree from a small, local farm might be running out of time — and options.
Marion County hardly has a dearth of Christmas trees: Last year, the county was home to 10,571 acres of Christmas trees, according to a 2016 USDA National Agriculture Statistics Services report. Oregon is the top producer of Christmas trees in the country, and Marion County is the second-highest producing county in the state.
But there are fewer and fewer small Christmas tree farms in the area, a fact noted by Ron Franke, owner and founder of Franke's Tree Farm in Woodburn.
"There's a short supply," Franke said. "I know of a few growers that have closed recently."
Franke said the fewer options in the area means that more and more people have been coming to his farm. And, before the first weekend of December had even begun, Franke said he'd already sold all of his taller trees — people coming to buy 5- or 6-footers at his farm will leave disappointed, he said.
And it hasn't always been that way for Franke's Tree Farm. Just a few years back, Franke said, he'd promote his farm in town to try and draw in customers. He'd put ads in the newspaper, hang up signs on the side of the road and hand out business cards.
Now, he's almost trying to curb new customers from coming to his 3.5-acre farm.
"I hate seeing people come here and leave without a tree," he said.
It's hard to track trends in local tree farms. Many are small and unaccounted for in the Census of Agriculture.
But it's no secret that there's a short supply of Christmas trees in Oregon. According to Capital Press, an agriculture news outlet, insufficient seed crops are part of the problem, especially for the popular Noble Fir variety of tree.
But a major cause of the shortage is farmers leaving the market.
Between 2010 and 2015, the total acreage of small Oregon Christmas tree farms (14 or fewer acres) dropped more than 48 percent, from 4,953 in 2010 to 2,571 in 2015, according to data from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Services.
Franke attributed many farmers leaving to the recession — Christmas trees take about eight years to grow, meaning that an economic downturn could still be reflected in the Christmas tree market.
Franke started his tree farm as a hobby in 1988. Expanding the farm would take more time and effort than he's willing to put into it. So for now, he'll continue selling out trees.
But for Woodburn residents looking to buy a fresh-cut tree, there are still some options. Bauman's Farm and Garden in Gervais (12989 Howell Prairie Road N.E.) still has options left on its 10-acre Christmas tree farm.
Bauman's is a family favorite — from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday until Dec. 17, it offers a fire pit to roast marshmallows and a kid-friendly hayride out to the trees.
Katie Jairges, who went with her family to Bauman's last Saturday to pick out a tree, said she was happy to find the farm.
"This is the second or third year we've gotten our tree from a local farm," she said. "We like to support local businesses."
But Jairges said that the farm her family used to go to closed down.
"We were lucky to find this place," she said.
Krystal Parks, who also went to Bauman's with her family last Saturday, said it wasn't hard for her to find the place.
"I'm good at Google on my phone," she said, adding that she likes the extras that Bauman's offers, like the hayride and smores.
Other options may require some hunting down — or a drive north or south on Interstate 5.
Palmer's Tree Farm in Salem (4716 Poinsettia St. N.E.) still has options, as does Sunny Day Tree Farm up in Sherwood (25100 S.W. Neill Road).