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Christmas tree growers in Oregon adjust after years of drought

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PLEASANT HILL, Ore. -- Drought and hot weather conditions have not made it easy for local tree farms, like Northern Tree Lights Christmas Trees.

"Painful," says Northern lights owner Bob Shutte. "This is my living right here. This is how we put food on the table, you know. We have one payday a year."

Because of dryer temperatures, their noble firs were the first to go, losing 50-60 percent of seedlings and having to cut down or salvage the rest.

From the nearly 2,000 trees they lost to drought in the last three years, just one noble fir is left standing.

They aren't the only ones feeling the effects of a drought.

"It affected Christmas tree farms all up and down the Willamette Valley," says Shutte. "Big farms, small farms, mom and pop farms--some farms only grew noble fir. They decided to go out of business."

For Shutte, staying in business was a result of a strategic plan--one he planted several years back.

"We diversified in our sales area, then you gotta say, 'Well, wait a minute here; not everyone likes the same thing,' so we diversified in our tree varieties."

In addition to this, they have stopped shipping trees across the country and have resorted to selling only locally and off of their own farm.

But as for the future of Northern Lights: "Looks good," says Shutte, "I mean, we are here; we've got trees of all ages planted on the farm. So there's gonna be lots of trees here for many years to come."

And despite the drought and lack of noble fir, Northern Lights will still be able to provide a variety of trees, keeping the Christmas spirit alive year round.

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