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Standing up for tree farms in Clark County

Acreage devoted to Christmas trees dwindling, so don’t wait to enjoy that special family outing

By , Columbian Features Editor
Published:
12 Photos
Bruce Wiseman examines a sapling that was burned by the 2021 heat wave at his Christmas tree farm near Ridgefield. Wiseman said he thought this particular sapling might survive and grow into a full tree.
Bruce Wiseman examines a sapling that was burned by the 2021 heat wave at his Christmas tree farm near Ridgefield. Wiseman said he thought this particular sapling might survive and grow into a full tree. (Photos by Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

When you go to a Christmas tree farm with your family, it’s not an errand. It’s an outing.

You wander the rows of fragrant trees. You debate the merits of this one versus that one. Maybe you get caught in the rain or struggle to tie the tree to the car. Year after year, tree after tree, you build memories.

For the farmers, though, U-cut trees are a tough business. Farms are “dropping like flies,” said Bruce Wiseman of The Tree Wisemans.

Acreage devoted to Christmas tree farms in Clark County fell 47 percent between 2002 and 2017, from 1,057 acres to 629, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture census figures available.

Wiseman has been in the industry for 40 years. He planted Christmas tree seedlings on his family’s property east of Ridgefield in 1980 and harvested his first Douglas firs in 1986. Not many years after, he started letting customers onto his 25 acres to cut their own trees.

“People don’t realize when they get into it how much work it is,” said Wiseman, a retired Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge manager. “I didn’t fully understand it, and I have been a farm boy my whole life.”

Wiseman has been active in the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association, and has watched the membership dwindle. Farmers aren’t getting any younger — “I’m 75, for crying out loud,” Wiseman exclaimed — but many haven’t made firm plans for generational transfer of their businesses.

Delayed effects

It takes six to eight years, depending on the species, for a tree to grow big enough for cutting, which means hard years might not affect supplies right away. For Christmas tree farms, the impacts of the Great Recession were still reverberating as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Then came June’s record-setting heat wave.

“It fried the west side of trees,” Wiseman said. “It hit us so hard.”

Temperatures at his farm reached 115 or 116, but when he put a thermometer down on the field, the ground measured 123 degrees, he said.

Nonetheless, he’s optimistic about this season.

“This rain has been a godsend,” Wiseman said before Thanksgiving. “The trees look almost as good as they ever did.”

Clark County U-cut Christmas trees

Farrell Farms

Where: 3000 S.E. 362nd Ave., Washougal

Contact: 360-835-0190; farrellfarmsllc.com

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 18.

Fischer’s U-Cut Christmas Trees

Where: 37920 S.E. Gibson Road, Washougal

Contact: 971-237-6317; facebook.com/Fischers-U-Cut-Christmas-Trees-1487 066398263541/

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily (closed Tuesday) through Dec. 19.

Glenwood Tree Farm

Where: 8808 N.E. 139th St., Vancouver

Contact: 360-573-2336; facebook.com/Glenwood-Tree-Farm-157747560938612

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and then closed for the season.

Hilltop Trees

Where: 18814 N.E. 139th St., Brush Prairie

Contact: facebook.com/Hilltop-Trees-188540394726/

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Klopman Farms U-Cut Christmas Trees

Where: 40910 S.E. 30th St., Washougal

Contact: 360-335-5249; klopmanfarms.com

Hours: 9 a.m. to dark daily through Dec. 23.

La Center Farms

Where: 31215 N.E. 40th Ave., La Center

Contact: 360-573-8965; lacenterfarms.com

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; check Facebook for updates.

McMenomy Highland Tree Farm

Where: 3017 389th St., La Center

Contact: 775-843-9094; mcmenomyshighlandtrees.com

Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 18.

Sunset View Firs

Where: 18211 N.W. 61st Ave., Ridgefield

Contact: 360-241-5681; sunsetviewfirs.com

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, Dec. 4 and 5.

Tappan’s Christmas Trees

Where: 7301 N.E. 185th Circle, Battle Ground

Contact: 360-573-8210; facebook.com/tappanschristmastrees

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4:30 daily.

Thornton’s Treeland

Where: 7617 N.E. 119th St., Vancouver

Contact: 360-573-8733; www.thorntonstreeland.com

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The Tree Wisemans

Where: 26500 N.E. 53rd Ave., Ridgefield

Contact: 360-887-4582; treewisemans.com

Hours: 10 a.m. until dark Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. until dark Saturday and Sunday.

Washougal River Christmas Trees

Where: 39336 N.E. Washougal River Road, Washougal

Contact: 360-837-3591; washougalriverchristmastrees.com

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Dec. 19.

Plus, snarled supply chains vexing other businesses might work to tree farms’ advantage, Wiseman said.

“Being a real Christmas tree advocate, we always compete with fake trees coming from China. They’re sitting in ships out there — can’t get them unloaded,” he said.

Other tree farmers also say they’re looking forward to a good season.

Ina Tappan, 85, kept her tree farm southwest of Battle Ground closed last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “This year we’re open with lots of nice trees,” she said.

Go early

If you’re thinking about cutting a fresh tree this year, don’t wait around. Last year, Christmas tree sales occurred earlier in the season, often selling out, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

Expect to pay upwards of $40. Some farms charge by size, while others charge a flat price. For example, Washougal River Christmas Trees, a 160-acre farm, charges $49.95 for any size tree and $2 extra for a card transaction.

Most farms offer free hot cocoa or candy canes. Some, like Thornton’s Treeland and Washougal River Christmas Trees, have animals.

No matter which farm you visit, “the memories are there,” said Rene Scarcella, who runs the 20-acre McMenomy Highland Tree Farm northwest of La Center with her husband, Patrick McMenomy.

“You take kids with you and ask, ‘Do you like this tree or that tree?’ It’s something to do as a family,” Scarcella said.

As challenging as tree farming is, “we’re still in it for a while,” she said, adding that she and her husband love to watch kids run through the rows of trees and make memories with their families.

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