Oregon grows 'greener' Christmas tree

Oregon grows 'greener' Christmas tree »Play Video
Lorin Zastoupil

LEABURG, Ore. -- In Lane County, customers can now add Christmas trees to the list of sustainable and locally grown products.

The Noble Firs found at Whitewater Ranch in Leaburg may look like ordinary Christmas trees, but there is something about how they’re farmed.
 
“Beautiful stuff,” said farmer Lorin Zastoupil on Saturday as he brushed his hand against one of the Noble Firs growing at the Whitewater Ranch he’s managed for over 20 years. “Beautiful trees!”
 
Zastoupil is a pioneer, of sorts, in the Christmas Tree farming industry with a special certification from the Department of Agriculture called Socially and Environmentally Responsible Farm.
 
“It stand for socially, environmentally, responsible farming,” said Zastoupil, overlooking a crop of 7-year-old trees that will someday end up in someone’s living room for the holidays.
 
Now, all the trees growing at the Whitewater Ranch carry a special tag to signify the certification, but Zastoupil said the process of farming at the ranch is what really sets them apart.
 
For one, Zastoupil said the process they use helps protect and promote biodiversity.
 
“We’ve left buffers along our streams for wildlife and fish and everything like that,” he said, then pointing to the McKenzie River front just feet from where he was standing.
 
And Zastoupil said the process also helps conserve soil and water.
 
“This land over here was Christams trees a month ago,” said Zastoupil pointing to a recently farmed stretch of land. “And we’ve taken them out, farmed out the land and now we’re getting it ready for the next crop.”

Zastoupil said in all his years on the farm he’s never seen a winter like this that allowed him to get such an early start on next year’s crop.
 
He also said they use least-toxic chemicals for pest control and fertilizing.
 
“We know what we’ve done to it,” said Zastoupil, grabbing one of the tree’s branches. “We know exactly what materials we’ve used on the tree.”
 
But Zastoupil said the farming process for the sustainably grown, Noble Fir Christmas trees isn’t that complicated. In fact, he said it’s just good farming.
 
Whitewater Ranch’s trees are shipped all around Lane County.
 
Customers told KVAL News they have gone out of their way to get these special trees.
 
“I think this watershed is much healthier because of the farming practices that occur here,” said one customer on Saturday at the Spring Creek Holly Farm, where the trees are sold to the public.
 
“If you’re going to dedicate a piece of property to a specific purpose, it’s kind of nice that you can continue it and not deplete the soil,” said customer Scott White at the farm on Saturday while picking out a tree with his wife.
 
“We’re really only passing through this land,” said Zastoupil. “We have to take care of it. It’s going to be here long after we’re gone, and we want it to be useable for the next generations.”
 
The Whitewater Ranch sells their trees to stands like Bo’s in Springfield.
 
There are still more SERF certified Noble Firs for sales, and the cost starts at four dollars a foot.
 
The Whitewater Ranch is one of only five SERF certified farms in all of Oregon.