Local Christmas tree farmers expect shortage of trees in the coming years

The last couple of years of drought and extreme heat have impacted hundreds of farmers across Southern Oregon, including Christmas tree famers. Although most expect to have enough trees available for the 2021 holiday season, one farmer expects that there could be a shortage of tree in the coming years because of consistent drought and extreme heat.

Posted: Oct 24, 2021 1:44 PM
Updated: Oct 28, 2021 9:15 AM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- For local Christmas tree farmer Rudolph Tantare, more commonly know as Rudy, replanting trees has always been a passion of his.

"I've always loved planting trees," said Tantare.

Tantare, a former member of the U.S. Forest Service, has been replanting trees for most of his life and has always had a special place in his heart.

His favorite part, he told NewsWatch 12, is getting to watch the trees gro1. So when he decided to retire from the Forest Service, becoming a Christmas tree farmer back in his home state was an easy decision for him.

"When we're able to invite families here with their children and they come out and find a tree, it's really moving," he said.

For the last almost decade, Rudy and his wife, Barbara Tantare, have been providing beautiful, luscious, dark green Douglas fir trees to families all across the Rogue Valley.

In that time, the couple has had to deal with very little adversity with their trees, beside the occasional deer killing a tree, or losing one to maybe disease. 

"We've been very lucky here at this farm," said Tantare. "We've had a lot of help from our neighbors and even other Christmas tree farmers."

But over the last two years, growing Christmas trees in Medford has become much more challenging, not only because of the on-going extreme and severe drought, but also extreme heat.

"The impacts on us have been primarily with our younger trees," said Tantare. "The impacts will be felt greater for us in the next five, six and seven years down the road."

This past summer, Rudolph's Christmas Tree farm lost roughly around 1,100 hundred trees, or 20% of their total inventory. Most of their losses were to their small trees — however even the older ones that would usually be stacked with dark green needles six to seven feet up in the air, are now a pink and orange hue.

Tantare told NewsWatch 12 that a big reason that their farm lost so many trees this year was because of a lack of water supply from Talent irrigation.

"In the last two years not only have we had drought, but also the irrigation water that we have had in the past has not been available throughout the summer," said Tantare. "It's caused us to have additional mortality for our trees."

On top of that, seed prices for new Christmas trees have skyrocketed in 2021 thanks to all of recent increase in wildfires that have destroyed more trees and land over the last two years.

"This year the forest managers were buying up all the seeds that were already in the ground," said Barbara Tantare. "We found some this year that are supposed to be specially developed as Christmas trees, but we paid twice as much for them this year."

Through it all, Rudy and Barbara have told Newswatch 12 that they will press on through these challenges; and although there may be some price increases this year, because of the losses that they suffered, they will still have plenty of Christmas trees this year to bring families that Christmas spirit.

"When people are able to come here with their families and select a tree that they'll bring home, put in their living rooms and decorate, that's the most enjoyable part of this job," said Tantare.

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