Santa & Sons Oregon Christmas tree farm is environmentally certified
Santa & Sons grows Noble Fir Christmas Trees at Whitewater Ranch, a family owned and operated farm using only sustainable farming methods that have been inspected by the Oregon Department of Agriculture and certified to be in compliance with the strict new SERF environmentally sustainable farm standards.
Santa & Sons is also a member of The Coalition of Environmentally Conscious Growers, which was formed in Oregon in 2007 to ensure that growers are utilizing sustainable farming practices in the production of Christmas trees. On-site farm inspections are conducted by an established independent auditing firm, The Freer Consulting Co. of Seattle, WA.
Coalition Christmas tree growers use farming methods that are conscious of the environment, and submit their farms to an ongoing series of independent physical audits that verify compliance with strict certification program standards for Soil and Water Conservation, Riparian/Wetland Management, Biodiversity , Nutrient Management, Pest Management, Site Selection, Worker Health and Hygiene, and Consumer Education.
What is the environmental impact of using a real Christmas tree?
Virtually all of the real Christmas trees used in the United States are grown right here in the USA. So the choices we make about Christmas trees hit not far from home. As we examine our personal conduct on the planet, we can reasonably ask what impact carrying on the real Christmas tree tradition has on the land and our environment. Are Christmas trees being grown in a manner that is environmentally sustainable?
We so often hear of environmental problems in our modern world, so the good news about farm grown, real Christmas trees is truly welcome. Today, environmentally conscious Christmas tree farms are organizing themselves to work with farm extension agents and agriculture officials to create for the first time real and verifiable farm sustainability standards for Christmas tree farms.
Scientific comparative studies now show that real farm grown Christmas trees are better for the environment than artificial trees. You can read more at this NPR article about the environmental benefits of real Christmas trees over artificial ones.
Christmas trees provide rural jobs in America
The environmental story of Christmas trees is unlike many others. Christmas tree farming is not highly mechanized, so it remains very labor intensive, by today's standards, remarkably so. Not only does this mean less equipment on the land but it generates lots of stable employment in the farm sector. The commitment of Christmas tree growers to this long term crop provides important and predictable green jobs in rural areas of America. The United States produces virtually all of the trees it uses and is a net exporter of Christmas trees, with Mexico being the largest export market. People's livelihoods really do matter, and farming Christmas trees provides an environmentally sustainable avenue of employment in areas moving away from the extractive industries of the past.
Christmas tree farms are good stewards of the earth
To understand the current state of the environmental impact we need to look at the Christmas tree industry as it now stands. Today the old tradition of going to the woods to bring home a tree for Christmas is really just a nostalgic reminder. Virtually all the Christmas trees being commercially produced in the United States are grown on tree farms, and on these lands Christmas trees are a conservation crop.
Growing Christmas trees offer many benefits that help the land rebound and diversify. By replacing annual crops that require plowing, disking, and harrowing each year, Christmas trees longer crop cycle of eight or more years provides many avenues for environmental improvements.
As Christmas trees take root, we are also growing and preserving soils. Many farmlands are highly depleted of organic matter. Christmas trees are pruned by hand every summer, and this deposits large quantities of twigs and needles onto the ground. This combines with a level of grass and weeds that accumulate over the eight years or so that it takes a Christmas tree to grow. Mature tree roots physically hold the soil against erosion, and later add more organic matter as the stumps and roots rot. In just a few years of growth the branches of the young trees help protect the ground from what is called impact erosion, which happens when heavy rainfall lands on exposed soils.
Another important way Christmas trees impact the environment is controlling runoff by changing the timing of the release of water from the soil in a beneficial way. When receiving a deluge of heavy rainfall, land with a surface layer of organic material and soil held by tree roots can slow down or even eliminate surface flows of water runoff and increase the absorption of water into the earth. This kind of sustained rainfall happens with some regularity in the Pacific Northwest. Land growing Christmas trees will more slowly release that water during the dry summer months, helping to recharge aquifers and sustain low season stream flows. Read more at this Nation Geographic article about the how Christmas tree farms save water in the environment.
When the trees get big enough, the shade they produce helps reduce soil evaporation, while offering refuge for a remarkable diversity of wildlife. Small birds probably get the most benefit, but rodents and other small mammals support populations of birds of prey. Deer are common and elk are in some of the more remote fields, drawn to graze on some of their preferred foods that grow as weeds between the rows. Over the years we’ve seen raccoons, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, cougars and even bears in our Christmas tree fields.
As farmers, we care deeply about the land where we live and work. Helping sustain the natural environment is for us, an important part of being at peace with the earth, with one another and within ourselves. We are truly grateful for the rural lifestyle Christmas tree farms help sustain.