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Green Express December Newsletter

Caroline Anderson - Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Green Express December 2015

Many years ago someone once told me that the trick to writing well was quite simple.

“Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you’ve told them.” Those simple words really pack a punch; couple this with the fact that I majored in History while at the University of California at Santa Barbara (put that in for fellow Gaucho Ken Koenig) and you will, hopefully understand my line of reasoning and message. Hard to understand the present without looking to the past, as well as acknowledging the cards we’ve been dealt (for better or worse)…

My most recent piece referenced the historic, long, hot, and dry summer we experienced in the Pacific Northwest this past summer. All Christmas tree growers were quite concerned as we headed into Harvest 2015. Mother Nature then threw us a curveball worthy of Sandy Koufax in his prime, perfect Harvest weather soon ensued. A nice “light” touch of rain at the beginning followed by cold (but not too cold), clear, relatively windless, fogless days at the very peak of the shipping cavalcade… Once all the hard work was done, the heavens opened up and the rain came on like gangbusters replete with flooding and a host of heavy rain related “pleasantries.” Had this weather come earlier, I would be penning a far different tale. Oh, and to add to the relative perfection just described, temperatures in California (by far our largest shipping destination) were quite benign as well. What a difference a year makes. Weather is THE key ingredient that separates the smooth (“smooth” being a relative term) years from the turbulent ones quite often.

Another theme we have touched upon is Supply / Demand in the Christmas tree industry. If there is a “force” more powerful than weather, Supply / Demand would be it. I cannot remember a time when I received so many desperate calls from Christmas tree retailers desperate for trees; quite simply, it was overwhelming and a little heartbreaking. “Supply / Demand” is a vicious foe when you are on the wrong side of the ledger; I call this a “transition year” in that many people doubted the shortage talk in general and also in a specific sense, in that a “noble fir or nothing” mentality persisted a little longer than I would have imagined. In the years to come (foreseeable future), the discussions will include terms such as “allocation” and A TREE rather than only A SPECIFIC TREE. Doubt this at your peril as we have discussed in this space previously… Luckily and fortuitously, we saw all of this coming and are as well positioned as a Christmas tree company can be in this tough environment.

Now on to a little constructive criticism… The Christmas tree industry is now (2015) participating in a marketing order much like the “Got Milk” and “Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner” campaigns utilized by the dairy and beef industries respectively. These campaigns involve contributions from the industry participants and are designed to stimulate consumer demand. Sounds great on paper, yet supply is unable to meet demand NOW? Saving it for a rainy day (love the tie in to weather) sounds like a great idea to us. Interestingly, “no tree” households still represent the largest segment of the three legged stool that includes “artificial trees” and “real trees.” This however, has more to with age demographics than it does with an aversion to the real deal; we have work to do as an industry, yet drumming up demand when supply is inadequate is a tough concept to embrace.

In closing I would just like to say that the Harvest Miracle is a sight to experience and behold. We are blessed to be graced with so many fine people in our extended organization / family. It truly does mirror combat at times and the relationships and friendships forged are quite extraordinary. As I looked around the room at our Annual Post Harvest Christmas Dinner / Awards Ceremony last evening, I couldn’t help but smile noting all of the true friends in the room.

The days are long, yet the time is short; the stress is high yet the smiles and laughter always find a way in. We do it all for our customers. As I always say, we wouldn’t be here without them and for that we are both humbled and immensely grateful. We would like to acknowledge and extol our new relationship with Lowe’s Hardware. YEAR ONE is never easy, yet the positives certainly dwarfed the inevitable growing pains implicit in any new relationship (especially one as demanding and complex as Christmas trees). The future looks very bright.

This rarely gets said, and I am not sure why, yet, I would like to thank all of the countless parents, wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, kids, and friends who are essentially put on a shelf as WE soldier through this massive undertaking. Many, if not most of you are veterans who understand the dynamics of the Christmas Tree Season. Their sacrifices are nonetheless greatly appreciated and honored.

Merry Christmas,

TMC and The Team at McKenzie Farms LLC

12/19/15    

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