Oregon growers tout real Christmas trees in California | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Oregon growers tout real Christmas trees in California

Lori Cain / Statesman Journal / Sergio Tellez works at a Willamette Valley Christmas tree farm near Salem, Ore., in 2005.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon tree growers want Californians to dream of a green Christmas.

Oregon leads the nation in Christmas tree production. About half of those trees are sold each year in California.

But sales growth in the Golden State has slowed, rising only 1 percent in the past two years, according to the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Growers Association.

Consumers seem to be buying more artificial trees. So the Oregon Department of Agriculture and growers are urging California residents to “Get Real This Christmas” and buy a fresh tree.

The public relations effort focuses on creating the eco-buzz that a fresh Christmas tree is renewable and recyclable. Many of the trees do have to be shipped great distances, though, which has its own eco-downside.

The campaign taps into concern about artificial trees. The U.S. Department of Commerce found that China exported more than 10 million artificial trees in 2006.

Given public concern about unsafe Chinese products, growers are pushing the idea that a fresh cut tree is a safe, domestic, high-quality product.

“We’re not out to smear artificial trees,” said Bryan Ostlund, executive director of the tree growers association. “We’re out to talk about the benefits of our trees.”

Harvest and shipping is under way for some growers, particularly those sending trees great distances. And artificial Christmas trees already are in stores.

The Oregon growers are not alone. The National Christmas Tree Association has for several years pushed its campaign of “Nothing Says Christmas More Than a Real Tree.”

This year, it is trying to get people to post videos to YouTube explaining why a real tree is best as part of the “Get Real This Christmas” campaign.

Part of the growers’ problem may be cost: A 7-foot Noble fir that would cost $40 in Oregon could go for $130 or more in Los Angeles. Other consumers may prefer less mess and fuss and opt for artificial trees.

But Oregon officials say there have been advances in tree-growing, such as creating trees that shed fewer needles.

“The trees sold today are a lot better than the ones sold 15 to 20 years ago,” said Gary McAninich, supervisor of the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Nursery and Christmas Tree Program.

Oregon is expected to harvest up to 8 million Christmas trees this year.

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