Nearly one-third of the massive Boardman Tree Farm has been sold to a local dairy that plans to move operations within the next year.
Willow Creek Dairy purchased 7,288 acres of the tree farm from GreenWood Resources in November. Owner Greg te Velde said the land he purchased runs along the property’s southern boundary — out of view from Interstate 84 — near Finley Buttes Landfill.
Once trees have been removed from the property, te Velde said he will put in a center pivot to grow irrigated wheat, corn and alfalfa. His dairy currently raises about 8,000 cows and provides 70,000 gallons of milk per day to Tillamook Cheese at the Port of Morrow.
Te Velde lives in central California, and established Willow Creek Dairy in 2002 on land leased from Threemile Canyon Farms. The operation employs about 50 people.
“The whole community is great,” te Velde said. “It’s all about agriculture. It’s really easy to do business here.”
Te Velde purchased land, water rights and irrigation equipment from the Boardman Tree Farm for $65 million, according to documents with the Morrow County Assessor’s Office. GreenWood Resources has owned the Boardman Tree Farm since 2007, totaling 25,000 acres of hybrid poplar trees that are grown in rotation and sold for sawlogs, pulp and biofuel. It takes 12 years before the trees fully mature.
Te Velde said he expects a measured transition from tree farm to dairy farm on the newly acquired land. GreenWood Resources did retain some options in the deal, depending on market conditions.
With any luck, te Velde said he could be moved within the next year.
“We’ll have a little more control over our destiny,” he said.
Don Rice, director of North American operations for GreenWood Resources, did not comment on the long-term future of the tree farm. The area spans six miles along Interstate 84 and 13 miles to the south, and stands as a significant landmark for the region.
The tree farm includes roughly 6 million standing trees, and provides lumber to the Collins Companies’ Upper Columbia Mill, which operates in conjunction with the GreenWood Tree Farm Fund. There is also a veneer mill owned by Columbia Forest Products that opened in 2013.
The Tree Farm has also hosted “A Very Poplar Run” since 2011, with 5K and 10K races to benefit the Agape House in Hermiston.