Christmas trees last in our homes for just a few weeks, but the farmers who grow these trees put many years of hard work into growing them. Depending on the species of evergreen tree, most take anywhere from seven to 12 years to grow to their full height. And, it is not as if they are just planted and then picked ten years later. The trees receive lots of care in between. Since evergreens grow bushy and wild out in nature, it takes meticulous and regular trimming to maintain their iconic Christmas tree shape.
Jay Bustard, a Pennsylvania Christmas tree farmer who supplied the White House’s Christmas trees this year stated that, “It takes a tree that has real good genetics and then also it takes some skill. When you prune them, that’s really how you get the shape.”
And, although Pennsylvania may be the home state of the White House Christmas tree, Oregon is the largest producer of Christmas trees in the world. The industry in Oregon earns approximately $110 million in sales annually. The state’s Christmas tree farmers ship six to seven million trees across the globe each year.
Oregon tree farmers have to deal with such a huge volume of trees, they begin harvesting at the end of the summer. This allows the farmers enough time to cut down, prepare and ship the holiday evergreens all across the globe in time for Christmas.
The harvesting process in complex. Farmers must inspect every tree in their fields for unwanted pests and diseases. Interestingly, only about 20% to 30% of a crop’s trees are considered Christmas-tree-worthy. Once those trees are identified, labeled and given the go-ahead for sale, the tree farmers start cutting. Sometimes, a crew will cut more than a thousand trees in just one day.
And, because the process is done on such a large scale, lumberjacks alone cannot work fast enough to chop down and deliver all of these trees by themselves. To help speed up the process, helicopter pilots are hired to airlift huge bundles of trees into trucks. The trucks then trek the trees to processing centers where they are then shipped to distribution centers.
Using helicopter pilots allows farmers to keep the trees fresher for longer since they are shipped and stored in refrigerated containers until they reach the familiar Christmas tree lots found in just about every city. From there, the trees get loaded into minivans and on tops of SUVs in order to reach their final destination – the holiday homes of those who wish to celebrate the season.