Anthony Parra carries a tree over his shoulder at Pilchuck Secret Valley Tree Farm on Monday, in Arlington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Anthony Parra carries a tree over his shoulder at Pilchuck Secret Valley Tree Farm on Monday, in Arlington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Christmas trees, a Washington cash crop, get a little more spendy

Christmas tree farms generate about $688,000 each season for Snohomish County farmers. Some are still open for business.

ARLINGTON — The noble fir is sparse and elegant, the grand fir plump and full, and the Nordmann fir long-lasting.

Take your pick from 35 acres at Pilchuck Secret Valley Christmas Tree Farm, a U-cut tree farm northeast of Arlington.

“Everyone has their own idea of a perfect tree,” owner and farmer Paul Dierck said on Monday as he walked through the rows.

Some visitors favor an unusual “Charlie Brown tree,” like the one at Dierck’s farm that has sprouted from a stump and has two tops. No takers so far.

Some Christmas tree farms have already closed for the season amid high demand. But several U-cut farms along with nurseries and roadside stands still have trees. Dierck anticipates his farm will stay open at least through the weekend.

Christmas trees are an important crop in Snohomish County, generating $688,000 in sales in 2017, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture. The county’s farmers rank fifth out of 30 counties that commercially produce Christmas trees in the state.

With just several weeks to earn income, Dierck is on site every day helping customers. The farm provides tree shaking and bundling for $5. After exploring the fields, customers can warm up next to the fire with a cup of hot cocoa.

Many families come back year after year.

“I have people who are second-generation,” Dierck said.

Returning customers Karl and Sheri Wiederspohn took home a noble fir on Monday. The two landed at Pilchuck Secret Valley Christmas Tree Farm after finding another farm had already closed.

“We try to hit a different one every year,” Karl Wiederspohn said.

The farm is a family operation, started by Dierck’s father Stanley in 1973. The business is now run by Paul Dierck, his wife Linda and son Adam, with help from their grandchildren.

While Christmas trees are a seasonal crop, Dierck’s work is year-round. He cuts down stumps, plants seedlings and prunes trees into their traditional shape.

This summer saw months with no rainfall. A field of young noble firs, planted last winter, did not survive the drought.

A small dead tree shoot is visible at Pilchuck Secret Valley Tree Farm on Monday, in Arlington. Many of the young trees were severely effected by the extended dry spell this summer. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A small dead tree shoot is visible at Pilchuck Secret Valley Tree Farm on Monday, in Arlington. Many of the young trees were severely effected by the extended dry spell this summer. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“It puts you back another year,” Dierck said. “That’s why farms are raising prices.”

Nationwide, Christmas trees are estimated to cost about 10% more this season amid tight supply and inflation, according to a New York Times article.

“We raised prices a little to keep up with everything,” such as high fuel costs and labor, Dierck said. He estimates his trees are about $5 to $10 more, on average.

He said the farm lowered the price of the Norway Spruce from $75 to $60 to give families a discount.

At Fish Creek Tree Farm, southwest of Arlington, owner Lloyd Dietlin has kept prices the same as last year to keep trees affordable. He started his farm 33 years ago as a “hobby run wild.”

Dietlin’s strategy is to keep his U-cut farm open until a week before Christmas.

“Some of the families wait for kids to come home from college or vacation,” he said. “It gets slow that last week or two; for some people, that’s their only choice. I stick it out so they have the choice.”

Where to buy a tree in Snohomish County

Farmer Brown’s Christmas Tree Farm: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays through Dec. 19 at 12017 109th Ave. NE, Arlington. 360-659-6686. U-cut trees. Hot chocolate, hot apple cider, coffee and hot dogs.

Fish Creek Tree Farm: 10 a.m. to dusk on weekdays and 9 a.m. to dusk on weekends through Dec. 18 at 18420 3rd Ave NE, Arlington. 360-652-9030. U-cut trees. $13 to $84. Cash and check only.

Holiday Forest Tree Farm: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 11 or until sold out at 3125 280th St. NW, Stanwood. 360-629-9097. U-cut trees. $70 to $110.

Pilchuck Secret Valley Tree Farm: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at 9533 Mose Road, Arlington. 360-435-9799. U-cut and pre-cut trees. Cash and check only. $60 to $300.

Stocker Farms: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Dec. 11 at 8705 Marsh Road, Snohomish. 360-568-7391. U-cut and pre-cut trees. $25 to $195.

Triple C Farms: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday through Sunday through Dec. 18 at 27314 36th Ave. NW, Stanwood. 425-245-2133. U-cut trees. Base price is $60 up to 5 feet for any species. $10 per foot above 5 feet. Check Facebook for updates.

West Coast Nursery, two locations: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the nursery, 18720 Highway 203, Monroe. 360-794-5457. Pre-cut and live trees. Additional tree lot in Woodinville, at Flamingo Motors, 19501 Woodinville Snohomish Road. Lot open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Jacqueline Allison: 425-339-3434; Twitter: @jacq_allison.

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