Wrapping up the Christmas tree season

Farmers on operations big and small say it’s been a good year for selling holiday greenery

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

Published:

 
photoDan Schumacher

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The two tree farms featured in this story:

Thornton's Treeland

Schumacher Tree Farm

HEISSON — Dan and Audra Schumacher called it a season Sunday and closed their u-cut lot in scenic Heisson in north Clark County.

At Thornton’s Treeland on 119th Street in the Sunnyside neighborhood, it’s on to Christmas Eve as last-week shoppers hustle to get the perfect tree.

While the Schumachers are pleased with sales on their 5 acres, Glen Thornton said it’s also been a good season at his 50 acres. Both operations say the economy has not hurt sales.

As the sun was setting on Sunday, the Olson family of northeast Portland lugged a grand fir to their Volvo station wagon.

Asked why they came to Thornton’s in Clark County, Jodi Olson said, “We were here last year and it was nice.” She and husband David were there with son Abraham, 4, and daughter Agatha, 8.

“They (the children) love it,” David said. “Candy canes and hot chocolate. How can you beat that?”

Glen Thornton, 79, works the farm with sons Joseph and Tom.

“We sold our first trees in ’74,” Glen said. “Ninety trees.”

He said thousands of trees would be sold before the season ends about 3 p.m. Dec. 24. Joseph Thornton said the family expected 5,000 people to come to the farm.

“We try to provide a pretty complete traditional experience,” Glen Thornton said, noting he offers hay rides, animals, the old barn, gifts and a nativity. “It’s kind of an old-fashioned Christmas.”

He said generation after generation come to his farm.

“A guy told me, ‘I met my wife here 23 years ago,’” Glen said.

The Olsons had planned to get a

tree earlier but, “Our life has been crazy,” Jodi Olson explained. Coming later in the season, “Actually, it’s easier. It’s not so crowded,” David Olson said.

The Schumacher family has been farming in the Heisson area since the late 1800s, Dan Schumacher said. His dad, Alan Schumacher, is well-known in Clark County’s agricultural community.

Besides Christmas trees, the family farms 300 acres of hay, grain, clover and straw.

They sold 13,000 bales of hay and 100 tons of oats in 2011, Dan said. Customers — horse and cattle owners and more — come to them on Northeast 279th Street.

Son Joe, 18, helps, and his sister, Bridgett, 22, who recently graduated from Washington State University, has helped in past years with wreath-making.

“We’d like to sell 400 to 600 and we’re right smack dab in the middle of that,” Dan said of tree sales. They also sold about 250 wreaths.

The Schumachers planted trees in 1997 and sold their first in 2004.

They grow Douglas, noble, grand and Nordmann firs.

“We’re tired,” Dan said as his season ended. He said growing Christmas trees is “super labor-intensive.” For instance, he fertilizes his trees by hand. There’s plenty of pruning and shaping to be done in summer months. His trees range from table-top 2-to-3-footers to 13-footers that some folks with vaulted ceilings want.

Dan said there is satisfaction when watching families venture into the trees.

“It’s about the experience of going out with the family and choosing the tree,” he said. “Each kid will take a turn with the saw.”

Or as Jodi Olson said as she and her husband tied their tree to the top of the station wagon, “It’s a always the perfect tree when you’re with your family.”