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.