Tree industry proves pandemic-proof: Hanns Christmas farm saw sales increase in 2020-21 | Business

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted earnings for many companies and industries, but for at least one longtime Oregon company, that effect hasn’t been felt. On the contrary, sales increased significantly in 2020 and 2021.

Hanns’ Christmas Farm at 848 Tipperary Road has seen sales rise 20-25% in 2021 from 2020, and last year was already a 25% increase from 2019, the owner and operator said Greg Hann at the Observer.

He sold about 5,500 trees this year.

“I just think people don’t travel as much on vacation,” he said. “They stay home and want to decorate their house and feel good. I saw it last year and I saw it just as much this year.

But also, he thinks his company provides a service at a time of year when people choose to spend a little more.

“We were very lucky during the recession,” he said. “We are one of the recession proof companies. People want to feel good at Christmas, so they save all year to spend Christmas.

Climate changes

But he doesn’t just attribute the surge in sales to the COVID-19 pandemic, he also said younger age groups such as millennials have taken more interest in living trees in recent years.

During the 1980s and 1990s, artificial trees grew in popularity due to concerns that the arboriculture industry was not environmentally sustainable, Hann said. But the industry has turned that perception on its head, demonstrating it has a “very small” carbon footprint and educating people about oxygen production in logging operations, Hann said. Farms also help provide homes for wildlife and provide fun outdoor recreational activity, he added.

“Millennials listened to these things,” Hann said.

He has over half a century of industry experience. Hann bought the business from his father in 2000, who launched it in 1969.

But as the tree growing industry has changed its environmental image, the environment itself has been turned upside down, as climate change has created noticeable effects, Hann said.

Drier autumns and winters slow tree growth.

“Trees really get dehydrated – humidity would be great – snow or rain,” Hann said.

And he’s seen a little more “winter scorch,” which is when a cold, hard frost hits a tree.

Changing preferences

The most popular tree at Hanns is the Fraser fir, while the balsam fir is also starting to gain popularity again. The attraction of the balm is that its fragrance is stronger than that of other trees. Canaan fir is also gaining popularity due to its silvery Fraser-like appearance and balsam-like body, Hann said.

He also sells Scots pine, white pine and blue spruce.

When he bought the farm two decades ago, Scots pine – which had reigned in popularity since the 1970s and 1980s – was experiencing a steady decline in popularity with customers. As such, Hann cut over 10,000 and burned them to make room for his customers’ changing preferences.

“I don’t know where people come from with their idea of ​​’it’s a traditional tree’ – it’s changed over time,” Hann said. “I certainly saw a huge shift from the 80s to now, from Scots and white pines to Fraser and balsam fir.”

Demanding work

For Hann, operating the tree farm is a full-time job of 40 hours a week most of the year, except in February and March.

April is usually when Hann starts planting trees each year – about 5,000 – which he can start cutting in the 8th or 9th year of growth and which will reach full size around 11 years old.

There are also herbicides for fertilizing, mulching and band spraying to kill weeds.

The farm is one of Wisconsin’s largest do-it-yourself tree farms, Hann said.

In addition to trees, the farm also produces wholesale wreaths, this year making about 6,500 for about 40 customers, including tumbling/gym groups, scout troops, church groups and other small purpose groups. non-profit. These groups sell the wreaths for winter fundraisers. While most groups are fairly local, Hann provides groups as far south as Illinois, he said.

All crowns are made over a four week period. Although he would like to hire more, Hann said it takes a lot of “work” and that this year he was particularly understaffed and could have used three or four more workers.

“People always ask if we could take more, but we physically can’t do more than that,” he said.

Between the wreath makers and the retail store employees, Hann has about 90 people on his payroll during the winter season, but it’s just him for the rest of the year – except for two weeks when the people help him for the spring planting.

I can’t rush nature

The biggest challenge is getting the trees to grow fast enough, he said.

“It’s hard for a small business owner to disappoint customers,” he said. “I work hard to make customers happy, I’m not Walmart, Costco or Menards – I want them to be happy, it’s our livelihood. So it’s hard when I have to tell them, ‘Sorry, I only have six feet of trees left.’

“But what I love the most about my job is people taking something I’ve grown and putting it at the center of their celebration for such a special holiday – it’s so exciting for me,” added Hann. “They take something that I created and put it in their house like that. I love that part, but it’s disappointing that we don’t produce enough to keep customers happy.

And his industry is unaffected by pandemic-related supply chain issues because his industry was “born and raised in America”, he said – there are no trees stuck on cargo ships at sea. However, around 20% of Christmas decoration items ordered for his farm’s retail store have not arrived from overseas this year, he said.

He orders most of his tree seeds from Michigan, so he hasn’t had a problem sourcing some.

But he said one of the positives of the pandemic is that people have become more understanding and less demanding.

“The pandemic has woken people up that sometimes it’s just not that easy,” he said. “At this point, people say, ‘Thank God I just need a tree. COVID-19 has changed our perspective in such a consumer society.

Christmas Eve was Hanns’ official last day of season, a little later than other tree farms in the area, but it remains open late into the year to serve the “small population” of Germans and Scandinavians in the region who traditionally wait until December 24 to plant their trees, he says.

Elizabeth J. Harless