The other day I was browsing the Oregon “Agripedia” – it’s 90 pages of agricultural statistics. It’s more interesting than it sounds, really. I learned that Oregon is the No. 1 U.S. producer of peppermint, grass seed, blackberries, hazelnuts, Dungeness crab and potted azaleas.
And also Christmas trees.
Oregon growers sold 6.4 million Christmas trees last year, more than any other state. Total sales were nearly $100 million. More than 85 percent of the trees were exported – which means outside money coming into state.
Christmas trees and peppermint are not that different. Both come from farms. In fact, in Oregon they are under the purview of the state Department of Agriculture, not the Department of Forestry. Many of these farms are small. There are about 1,600 Christmas tree farms in Oregon. Most are small family operations – 1,000 of them are smaller than 15 acres.
Trees just take longer to grow than your typical crop – about seven to 10 years for a 6-foot tree. And although we’ll cut 6 million Christmas trees this fall, Oregon farmers plant about that same number every year.
So you could buy an artificial tree, probably made in China out of plastic, and destined for the landfill. But why? Christmas tree farming is sustainable, it supports Oregon’s rural economy, it stores carbon and breathes out oxygen, and when the holidays are over the tree can be recycled into mulch or compost.
Environmentally, it’s an easy choice. And it’s good for the local economy, too.
So there certainly will be a real tree at my house this Christmas – and maybe a bowl of roasted hazelnuts and some Willamette Valley pinot noir, too.
Thanksgiving is this week. Our family, like most families, has plenty of traditions surrounding Thanksgiving. Many of them are food-related – the brining of the turkey, the mashed-potato volcanoes, and the little oddly shaped dish whose only job, it seems, is to hold the green olives.
But we’ve created other traditions over the years. One of our most recent is a post-Thanksgiving trip to the Tillamook Forest Center to create our annual holiday wreath.
Every year for the past six years, our family has made the trip down the Wilson River to spend the day at the interpretive center. We hike the trails. We wear the firefighter’s hat. We play in the fish bubble. We also build a giant wreath for our home. Oregon Department of Forestry staff members collect branches and forest products from within the Tillamook forest and bring them to the center. Native tree species including Douglas-fir, hemlock and noble fir make a great base for a hardy wreath. Pine cones, holly branches and even a little Oregon grape help add to the cheer.
You can find information about these wreath-making activities on OFRI’s calendar of events. In fact, we invite everyone to regularly visit the OFRI calendar of events to see what’s happening, and encourage you to submit your events to the calendar using the handy online form.
The OFRI calendar of events is intended to be a community-supported calendar. If you have any forest-related events that are open to the public, the OFRI events calendar is a great place to market them. Whether you’ve got an upcoming tour, hike, workshop or yes, even a wreath-making party, submit your event and spread the word.
Enjoy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Public Outreach Program Manager
It’s not unusual to see film crews on the street below the OFRI office in downtown Portland. They often use the Historic U.S. Bank Building as a backdrop. But it was a first for us last week when a crew from the TV series “Grimm” came inside our office to shoot a scene taking place across the street.
Inspired by the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tales, the show “Grimm” is set in Portland because the area reminded the creators of Germany's Black Forest, where many of the original tales take place. “Grimm” tells the story of a Portland homicide detective who discovers that fairy-tale creatures are real – and that he has the power to see them when others usually can't.
These creatures include the beaver-like Eisbiber, the wolf-like Blutbaden and the bear-like Jägerbären.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you where you might go to catch sight of a Blutbaden. But if you’re more interested in real forest wildlife, I can recommend a book: A Guide to Priority Plant and Animal Species in Oregon’s Forests.
This 120-page book, published by OFRI, lists more than 100 species that have special status – that is, they may be threatened or endangered under state or federal law, or they may be part of the Oregon Conservation Strategy.
The book organizes species by the type of forested habitat in which they tend to live, so users can easily find and identify those found in different-aged stands of trees. Maps show where in Oregon each species is known to occur or could potentially occur.
The book also includes a handy illustrated guide to identifying common trees and plants in Oregon forests.
A Guide to Priority Plant and Animal Species in Oregon’s Forests is recommended for all forest land managers, as well as educators. Along with OFRI’s other wildlife publications, including the Wildlife in Managed Forests series, the guide is useful for anyone working to understand where various species live and what habitat they need to survive.
For more information, check out these OFRI publications.
A Guide to Priority Plant and Animal Species in Oregon Forests
Wildlife in Managed Forests — Northern Spotted Owl
Wildlife in Managed Forests — Stream-Associated Amphibians
Wildlife in Managed Forests — Oregon Forests as Habitat
Director of K-12 Education Programs
Well, I wouldn’t recommend it, but there are a lot more products from forests and trees than just wood. Wild forest goods – also known as non-timber forest products – are booming in Oregon forests, thanks to the work of several groups.
I had the pleasure of attending a Forest Learning Fair sponsored by the Oregon Woodland Cooperative in September near Brownsville. I was surprised by the number of products: basketry materials, berries, boughs, cones, dyes, essential oils, firewood, floral products, wild honey, moss, mushrooms, nuts, resins, seeds and syrups are all being harvested and marketed by Oregon family woodland owners.
The most fragrant product I learned about was “Canopy Essential Oils,” which are distilled, bottled and marketed by the co-op. Foliage from trees and shrubs is steam-distilled in a large stainless-steel still fired by propane. Pines, cedars, Douglas-firs and true firs are all used, and each has its own unique fragrance.
The OWC was formed to help its members market their timber more effectively by having larger lots to sell. However, they’ve grown into a great marketer of non-timber forest products for their members. One of their biggest successes is with bundled firewood.
Bundled firewood represents a premium, value-added product for low-value logs. Prices are steadier year over year than pulp, and more reliable year-round than cordwood. Finally, increasing energy prices also means firewood prices are likely to increase. Bundled firewood is sold at supermarkets, convenience stores and campgrounds.
Two other organizations that are helping family forest landowners market their non-timber forest products are the Institute for Culture and Ecology (IFCAE) and the Oregon Wood Innovation Center (OWIC).
IFCAE is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve human and environmental conditions through appliled research, education and community improvement projects. OWIC is a joint project of Oregon State University’s College of Forestry and OSU Extension Service, aiming to improve the competitiveness of Oregon’s wood products industry by fostering innovation in products, processes and business systems.
Together these groups have produced Wild Forest Goods, a regional directory that links businesses that buy and sell non-timber forest products. This database expands Oregon State University’s Forest Industry Business Directory.
So don’t eat any pine trees, but do remember the thousands of products that are harvested and marketed from our forests.
May The Forest Be With You,