I can still remember the first time I visited Oregon as an adult. I was working in the stock brokerage business out of Southern California at the time (the early 1990’s, I believe) and I remember a few things pretty distinctly. First, the stock markets were tanking (as they almost always did whenever I attempted a summer vacation!), I was blown away by the beauty of the area (I had no idea that so many shades of green actually existed) and I couldn’t believe the really hot temperatures. I had always thought Oregon was a temperate place!
Spring forward to 2015 and I find myself immersed in the world of Christmas trees (quite a change from my past life). I’m still continually awed by the variety of green that one can see in the course of a quick glance at a hillside or random field and that really hot weather I experienced on one of my first visits to Oregon is back (not that it ever really went anywhere). The big difference that makes the spring and summer of 2015 stand out is the duration, consistent intensity and lack of any real consequential rainfall. In Oregon we have a running joke that summer doesn’t really begin until the 4th of July and be prepared, it might rain on the 4th. Not this year!
In doing a little research for this update I came up with the following information to help put the summer of 2015 into perspective:
- Portland averages about a baker's dozen days each year when the temperature reaches or exceeds 90 degrees.
- Some years we have more, some years, less, and some years we have none at all.
- This year, Portland has already had 18such days: One in June, 14 in July; and 3 in August.
- On Sunday (August 2nd), Portland broke the all-time record of consecutive days at or above 90 degrees, with nine in arow, breaking the old record of 8 days which ended on August 19, 1967.
- On Monday (August 3rd), the high hit 90 degrees, setting a new record for consecutive days at 10 days.
- Four of those ten days saw record high temperatures for the date: July 27, 103 degrees; July 28-29, 106 degrees; andAugust 1, 95 degrees. Source: Oregonian 8/3/15
Suffice it to say, Christmas trees (unsurprisingly) do not fare particularly well in this type of unrelenting weather. With the exception of cacti, it is difficult to think of anything that does. Couple this with the fact that Christmas tree inventories were already in a tight supply/demand ratio (as mentioned in my June newsletter) and you have a fairly serious situation on your hands.
For the most part, Christmas trees (firs) are fairly hardy creations. They get an abundance of rain, under normal circumstances, and retain/use moisture better than many species of trees. There is a point, however, where the damage is done and Christmas tree growers are forced to assess the damage and react accordingly. We have seen “burn”, “needle loss”, outright dead trees and a host of other consequences as we survey the fields. Our tagging (tree selection process) has started so we are learning more by the day. Needless to say, loss and damage is above average expectations.
Weather is a powerful force that none of us control, unfortunately. We are simply at its mercy and we do the best we can to cope and adapt. Oregon is a land of verdant beauty for a reason, rainfall mixed with just the right amount of sunshine and warm temperatures. So far, 2015 has proven to be an aberration year with some far reaching consequences that we will understand better in the weeks and months to come. All agricultural interests in the area are struggling with the aforementioned conditions. Misery loves company, I suppose. California has received the headlines yet Oregon and the rest of the Pacific Northwest is experiencing something quite noteworthy as well.
We are very appreciative to all of our customers who have gotten their orders in early this year. Kristina Roberts and Rachel Williams have done a great job of orchestrating all of this but none of it happens without your cooperation and understanding. Once again, tight supplies mean that 11th hour Christmas tree buyers may find that quality trees are hard to find. We have shared this message with our customer base and they have expedited their ordering/administrative processes accordingly.
We would also like to acknowledge the efforts of John Anderson, Kris Kelly, Kerry Joe Stockner and the balance of the tagging crew who are in the midst of a long difficult odyssey that culminates in the selection of our/your trees for the upcoming Season. They brave early mornings, the aforementioned warm temps, countless miles of walking and driving, nasty insects, hastily eaten lunches, hilly terrain and a whole host of challenges large and small in order to select the very best trees we have to offer. There is no job as important as theirs and we simply like to salute their efforts each and every year. Speaking of important roles, I would also like to recognize the day in and day out leadership of our Field supervisors Ramiro Torres, Edgardo Rodriguez, and Juan Garcia.
Finally, I would like to formally announce that I am a married man once again. I have gotten to know many of you on this list quite well and I wanted to share my happiness with you. Marriage has its share of “hot weather” as well; I know and trust it will all work out in the end just like we know and trust it will all work out in the world of Christmas trees.
From all of us at McKenzie Farms, thank you for your support and friendship. Time flies by and we never tire of telling you all how important you are to us.
Thomas M. Cook
McKenzie Farms LLC