Christmas Trees Scorched by Pacific Northwest Heat Wave

Christmas Trees Scorched by Pacific Northwest Heat Wave
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Christmas Trees Scorched by Pacific Northwest Heat Wave

Christmas Trees Scorched by Pacific Northwest Heat Wave

When Jacob Hemphill walked into the driveway of his 200-acre Christmas tree farm in Oregon City, Ore. On the second night of a record-breaking heat wave late last month, his stomach sank.

That morning, a vast field of about 250,000 green trees had graced his property. But now it was covered with broad bands of burnt brown. All of his seedlings were gone, along with some of his mature trees, a huge loss that he said could cost him around $ 100,000.

Credit…via Jacob Hemphill

The deadly heat wave that scorched the Pacific Northwest in late June also shook Oregon’s typically thriving Christmas tree market. More Christmas trees are grown there than anywhere else in the country, followed by North Carolina and Michigan.

Farms like Mr. Hemphill’s dot the country roads southwest of Portland. But now he said, “There’s nothing left.

Climate change was already having an impact, even before the last heat wave. A recent report from the United States Department of Agriculture found that between 2015 and 2020, the area of ​​state where Christmas trees grow fell by 24%, as wildfires and drought reduced the number of people living in the state. harvest.

Over the same period, the average cost of Oregon’s trees – which are sold primarily on the West Coast – nearly doubled, according to the report, from around $ 18 to $ 31 each.

When Mr. Hemphill took over the family farm in 2010, his father and uncle had already been growing trees for 26 years. But they’ve never experienced anything like the weather conditions Mr Hemphill, 43, now faces.

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Growing up, he said, rainfall was abundant – and predictable – during the key growing season in early July. While the rain may have disrupted the Fourth of July celebrations, it fed the trees when they needed it most. But this July 4th, like all the others in his most recent memory, was hot and dry.

The noble fir trees that Mr. Hemphill grows take about nine years to reach their adult size.

He said he would continue to plant for now, but wondered if he would eventually need to find more stable employment.

The best he can do now, he said, is pray for it to rain. “The problem is, it’s not even August yet.

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