Slump ends, Christmas tree growers say

SILVERTON, Ore. — Christmas tree growers in the Northwest say the business looks a little greener this year after a slump that drove out a substantial number of producers.

The story is common in agricultural markets: Business gets good, new investors and producers flock in, supply goes up and prices go down, then there’s a shakeout, and finally business gets better.

Growers tell the agricultural publication Capital Press that after a seven-year slide, prices are up slightly, and inventory is moving.

“I’m hearing from a lot of growers that not only are they sold out, they are oversold,” said Bryan Ostlund, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association. “They are starting to cut into next year’s inventory … We haven’t heard comments like that for a long time.”

Oregon leads the nation in Christmas tree production. Washington is sixth.

Growers said investors, many new to the industry, planted millions of trees in the early 2000s to take advantage of a strong market. Seven years later, the noble fir and Douglas fir trees reached market size, the market was flooded, and prices plummeted.

“It was bad enough that we lost over half of the growers that had over 100 acres of production in Christmas trees,” said McKenzie “Ken” Cook of McKenzie Farms in Estacada, Ore.

“Six years ago, there were over 110 growers in that category. Today that number is less than 50,” he said.

The total of Christmas trees in the ground in the Northwest has dropped from about 85 million four or five years ago to about 75 million, Cook said. Growers typically harvest about 10 percent of their trees a year.

Prices dropped 35 percent from their peak in 2004 to their low last year, growers said. Producers said prices are now up 2 percent to 3 percent — not enough to sustain them, but they expect better prices over the next two years.

John Tillman of Northwest Plantations in Elma is looking forward to that.

“The people who have stuck it out, who have made a living at this through thick and thin, at this point, I think we deserve to be rewarded a little bit for our perseverance and our ability to serve customers with the trees that they need, and to get through these times,” he said.

More in Herald Business Journal

Safe saves Everett Office Furniture’s future after fire

The business was able to reopen because vital paperwork was preserved.

Sales of U.S. homes fall year over year by most in 3½ years

Would-be buyers were stymied by rising prices and a shortage of homes for sale.

Why real estate investors are watching self-driving cars closely

With decisions on real estate made years in advance, could self-driving cars change how we live?

More than 60 Boeing 737s per month: Can suppliers keep up?

There was lots of talk this week about the prudence and pressures of soaring production rates.

Developer proposes an 18-story building in Lynnwood

It would be the second-tallest in the county and include apartments with retail space.

Even as stock markets shook, many investors held steady

Older investors were buying stocks, but at a lower rate than their younger counterparts.

Snohomish County business licenses

PLEASE NOTE: Business license information is obtained monthly from the Washington Secretary… Continue reading

New Everett mayor speaks out about business in city, region

Q&A: Cassie Franklin on what can be done to get Boeing to build the 797 here and attract new industries.

Aerospace analyst explains how he’ll help state’s Boeing bid

Richard Aboulafia will deliver a report on Washington’s strengths and weaknesses in landing the 797.

Most Read