Our growers thoughts on the shortage of trees

Last Fall our grower and owner Mark Rohlfs made a Facebook post on some changes in the Christmas tree growing industry. Below you’ll find the link to that post and some expanded thoughts on the subject.

https://www.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2316776535228994&id=1922427911330527%3Fsfnsn%3Dmo

The changing landscape of the Christmas tree industry is visible even to our customers, with a limited number of trees becoming available for purchase each year. There are a number of factors leading to that decline, which Mark touches on in his post. Let us take a look at a few of the biggest ones.

The number of Christmas tree growers has dropped significantly over the last decade, from over 1600 in 2010 to less than 500 today. Christmas trees take up to seven years or more to grow to maturity. That is seven years of labor, supplies and hard work before you turn a profit on that harvest of trees. Due to an over abundance of trees a decade ago almost all farmers pulled back on the amount of seedlings they were planting. This happened around the same time as the Recession in 2009.

Little did any of them anticipate the impact that would spread out from this first ripple. Because a large number of farmers have moved into permanent crops like hazelnuts and blueberries, the Christmas tree market is just now starting to really feel the effects of all these changes. T

What does all of this mean for the long term effects of the Christmas tree market? That is what everyone is trying to figure out these days. Throw into the mix the upheaval of every corner of the world with the current Covid-19 situation and we do know one thing for sure. We are holding firm to our decision to grow and sell our own trees for you in the most sustainable ways we can.

A former Christmas tree field transformed into a blueberry farm

Adjusting to natures changes

Now more than ever, supporting the growth of seedlings is vital to sustaining the Christmas tree industry

Years of continuous droughts across the country have contributed to a shortage of trees for the last few Christmas seasons. Lack of rains during typically wet seasons leave seedlings with weak root systems, add the summer heat on top of that and we have one of the largest factors contributing to the shortage of Christmas trees everyone has encountered over the last few years. In 2018 alone there was upwards of 50% seedling loss nationwide.

Just like in your home garden, one of the best ways to promote root growth is through a phosphorous fertilizer. Usually this isn’t something we do with seedlings. Due to the drastic rate of die off of seedlings we and other farmers have had to change up how we do things. To aid us in the process this year we got our hands on some new to the industry Jacto automatic backpack sprayers. Usually, when fertilizing our fields, workers carry a four gallon hand pressurized pack, and have to estimate the amount of product being placed on each individual tree. This work tends to get done early in the year, and on our farm, it is all done by workers walking the fields rather than by more mechanized means.The upgrade to these battery powered sprayers allows our workers to focus on accuracy and efficacy when fertilizing. The new sprayers also have the ability to spray a measured dose of fertilizer every time. Helping take the guesswork out of this process and ensuring the optimal dosage for every seedling.

A number of other factors are needed for proper fertilization. One of the biggest being soils moisture content. Fertilizers must be liquid based to help with the needed deep penetration of the soil to reach the roots. It is important to do this work when the ground itself is damp as well. The damp ground helps ensure the liquid fertilizers reach down to the roots. Otherwise the fertilizer would just stay on top of the soil, not aiding in root development.

Below you’ll see a short video of our guys and their new backpacks in action. Take note that this video show just a small section of the greater number of seedlings we are caring for. Halfway through you can see our guys working side by side with the new sprayers and the hand pressurized ones. While this video is just one minute out of many days worth of work we wanted to take this opportunity to show you one of the many parts of the care and dedication we put into growing our beautiful Christmas trees.

Here we have a link for you to see these sprayers in action.

https://youtu.be/RG2cFOxsUww

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*This post mentions a product we enjoy using. We are not sponsored or paid by this brand*

Spring time on a tree farm

Large natural evergreen trees in the background with smaller Christmas tree shaped trees in the front. All with a light dusting of snow.
A dusting of March snow on our Oregon tree farm

Even though many of us are stuck inside, it is officially spring time here in Oregon and that means a lot of work is going into getting our trees ready for their growing season which starts in May.

Like most farmers, our days starts early. Our field manager Micheal is up and about as soon as the sun is on the field. In the early spring that tends to mean lots of frost and perhaps a light dusting of snow on our young trees. The cold temperatures don’t stop Micheal and our crew, bundled up to work in the cold early mornings. This early morning work is important because winds tend to be slower, and grounds moist, which is optimal us to deliver fertilizer to our trees.

Most of our work right before and during spring involves lots of counting, counting, more counting and grading . All of our fields get counted so we can make sure we are growing enough beautiful trees for you and your family to enjoy for years to come.

A heard of elk walks though a field of trees hoping to find any without bud caps.

Another thing we have to keep an eye on over the winter and into spring are elk. With elk populations searching for sustenance, the tips of our baby trees are one of their favorites. One of the only things we are able to do to keep our baby trees from getting munched on it put individual bud caps on every one of our younger trees. These caps are each secured into place by hand and keep the tasty tips of the trees safe from getting eaten. Tedious it maybe but it is just one of the many small details that go into the growth of beautiful Oregon Christmas trees. Trees that do end up as a tasty snack for elk tend to have issues with growing into the big beautiful trees we all love.

Seedling inter-planted with
older trees

Planting is the largest activity on any farm this time of year. Luckily for us, our seedlings can go in the ground even if there is still a chance of frost or snow. This year alone we have planted 8550 new seedlings. All by hand. It is a lot of hard work but we love to do it. The care we put into each and every one of our trees is just on of the many factors that make Santa and Sons stand apart from other Christmas tree lots. This may sound like a lot of work and trees but according to the National Christmas Tree Association, “there are close to 350 million Real Christmas Trees currently growing on Christmas Tree farms in the U.S. alone, all planted by farmers.”

Welcome To Our Blog

Hi everyone, my name is Mischa and I’m going to be your guide to everything Christmas trees from here on out.

Santa and Sons has been around for a long time but we came to realize many people don’t actually know much about all that goes into getting these lovely trees from our farm, to our retail lot and lastly, into your home every year.

What we want to share with you

  • A behind the scenes look at Oregon Christmas tree farming
  • Information about all the different types of Christmas trees we offer
  • Close up look at all that goes into setting up and running our retail lot at Los Angeles Valley College

Seeing as we’re just humble tree farmers in Oregon, we are new to this blog thing. We are hoping to find a way to connect you more closely to your tree and to us.

Unlike so many other products these days, our Christmas trees really only go through a few sets of hands before they end up with you. We’re hoping to show you just how close you are to us and how much work we put into getting you one of the worlds finest Christmas trees.

We want to stay connected with you year round, not just while we’re in Los Angeles. Hopefully we’ll be able to do that through

  • Our Instagram @Santa_and_Sons
  • Our Mailing List, sign up on our home page
  • This blog!
  • Our direct contact, find it under our contact tab. Ask us anything, or share with us something you’d love for us to blog about.

Meet Mark

A man with long blond hair and a white hat between Christmas trees. He is wearing a red jacket and white pants.

The man behind it all, Mark Rohlfs has been in the tree business for almost forty five years. When Mark was a student in the college of forestry at Oregon State University, he was picked from his class to work with a local farmer in rural Blodgett, Oregon. Was it Marks attention to detail that got him picked? Superior grades and good attitude? As silly as it seems now, it was actually just that he was the tallest fella in his class and could reach the tops of the trees with ease.

Santa & Sons Christmas tree farm began as an independent, Oregon Christmas tree farm labor, and reforestation crew. Throughout the late 1970’s and 1980’s, Mark worked with a local farm labor crew on hundreds of Oregon Christmas tree farms. They saw a wide range of different growing conditions and learned the best Christmas tree farming methods while developing a broad knowledge of the Oregon Christmas tree industry and a desire to help it grow and move into the future, while holding true to it’s farm value roots.

Over the years Mark has watched the natural Christmas tree market shift and change and has done everything in his powers to stay ahead of the times. Be it home delivery to a wide area in the San Fernando valley, or his newest online ordering system, Mark is always looking towards the future. At his one retail lot in California, customers have come to know and love the service and quality they get and enthusiastically embrace his modern take on the classic family run Christmas tree lot.

All these years later Mark is still out in the fields every week. He has a small crew that work year round tirelessly trimming and caring for all of his trees by hand, but more on that in a future post.

Tree Types

You may not be surprised to learn most people don’t know there are different varieties of trees grown and sold for Christmas trees. Lets explore a few that we specialize in.

Here at Santa and Sons we grow and sell three main types of trees

  • Douglas Fir
  • Noble Fir
  • Nordmann Fir

Perhaps your recognize one of these as the type of tree you typically get for your home. Lets take a deeper look at what makes each of these trees so special.

Nordmann Fir

Close up Nordmann needles
  • Full, symmetrically arranged strong branches that are perfect for holding large or heavy ornaments
  • Durable, long lasting trees in the home, outlasting by far any other variety
  • With superb needle retention Nordmann Fir have the distinctive quality of shedding the fewest, if any, needles
  • Dark green needles are soft and flatten with a waxy cuticle that gives the tree its shiny appearance and helps prevent drying

Noble Fir

Close up Noble needles
  • Beautiful soft blue green needles and a wonderfully distinct fresh fir fragrance
  • Full natural shape with strong layered branches that can support heavier ornaments
  • Very durable with excellent needle retention
  • Simply the best Christmas tree available anywhere, when you think of the classic Christmas tree shape, this is it

Douglas Fir

Close up Douglas needles
  • THE original Christmas tree of the West Coast
  • Grown for Christmas trees in the Pacific Northwest since the 1920’s
  • A uniform tapered shape and a full bushy appearance with upright branches
  • Packed with soft green needles that are soft to the touch and exude a distinctive pine-like scent