Christmas tree farmer: 'We're stemming the tide of the plastic'

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Overplanting in the 1990s hurt the Christmas tree business in Oregon in the early 2000s, but farmers said all that is beginning to change this holiday season.

"We're confident that we will be here," said Holiday Tree Farms distribution supervisor Jim Ubbink at the distribution center in Corvallis on Monday. "And my feeling is that the people that will be here are going to come out on top."

Ubbink has worked for Holiday Tree Farms Inc. of Corvallis since 1986. He said he's seen a lot of ups and downs in the market over the years.

"A lot of people were planting," said Ubbink, "and those trees were coming on more than what the market needed."

Ubbink said an oversaturated Christmas tree market forced prices down in recent years. He added that the increased popularity of fake Christmas trees in the last three decades has only made the market more competitive for holiday tree farmers.

"It's a generational trend," said Ubbink. "It's kind of a no mess, no fuss; and an artificial tree can provide that."

But Ubbink said Holiday Tree Farms weathered the storm, and this year's wholesale prices have steadied and demand nationally has increased.

However, retail prices have stayed relatively the same, according to Ubbink.

"Those six Douglas Firs would probably go for $39," said Ubbink as he pointed to a stack of trees waiting to be loaded onto the truck. "People think because the trees are going to places like California, they would be expensive. But they're really not."

Holiday Tree Farms is the nation's largest Christmas tree business, and Ubbink said they will ship about 1 million trees this year to destinations all over the world.

"That pile over there will be getting on a train later today," said Ubbink, "and those ones right there are headed to Philadelphia."

The shipping season for Christmas trees runs from mid October until mid December. Ubbink said big box stores like Home Depot and Wal-Mart will buy up most of the holiday tree supply.

On Monday, thousands of Douglas Fir Christmas trees were loaded onto long haul trucks at the Beaver Creek distribution center at 29798 Saxton Road, Corvallispacked 800 deep for delivery out of town, out of state and across the world.

"We're stemming the tide of the plastic," said Ubbink.