U-cut Christmas tree season opens
Washington sixth in the nation for number of trees sold
By STEVE BROWN
ROCHESTER, Wash. -- The day after Thanksgiving is Green Friday for U-cut Christmas tree growers as the industry's business cycle shifts from wholesale to retail.
"You won't find trees like this at the mall," Arthur Betts said at his farm southeast of Rochester. Most Northwest trees are sold wholesale to resellers across the West and overseas.
Betts has made his own shift in crops. Early this year he pulled out 5,000 trees, leaving 400 for his U-cut operation.
He has been in the business for 20 years, he said, but wholesale is became more difficult for the small farmer.
"You gotta know somebody," he said.
The cleared land, with several black circles where the trees were burned, will have a different crop once it has been prepared, but he doesn't know yet what that will be.
The 250 commercial growers in Washington harvest about 2 million trees from 25,000 acres, according to the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association. The value of the crop is more than $60 million.
The top-producing counties -- Kitsap, Lewis, Mason and Thurston -- are in the southwest part of the state.
The state ranks sixth in the U.S. in the number of trees sold, behind Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Oregon has nearly 65,000 acres under cultivation by an estimated 775 producers. On a national basis Oregon produces more than one-third of the total number of Christmas trees purchased. In 2011 an estimated 6.4 million trees were harvested, with a wholesale value of $110 million.
Short courses Feb. 22
The Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association will host educational sessions Feb. 22 for Christmas tree growers and retailers.
Experts will discuss new growing and harvesting methods, pesticide and safety information, business practices and tax implications for those in the industry.
The sessions will be at the Embassy Suites Hotel at the Portland Airport.
Information and registration: 503-460-3000 or www.pnwcta.org/