If you're among the more than 99 million Americans who set up a Christmas tree each year, there's a decent chance your tree comes from Oregon.
Christmas trees are grown commercially in 44 states. But in most places it's a tiny industry, and production hovers in the thousands and hundreds of thousands. Only four states produced more than a million Christmas trees in 2012. Oregon was the top Christmas tree–producing state, with more than 6.4 million trees produced in 2012.
The Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association — which is a real organization that exists — estimates that the Christmas tree industry will generate $90 million in revenue for Oregon in 2016. Ninety-two percent of Christmas trees produced in the Pacific Northwest (both Oregon and Washington) are ultimately exported out of the state, with the biggest customer being California. Only 4 percent make it all the way to the East Coast.
North Carolina was the second-largest producer of Christmas trees (4.3 million), followed by Michigan (1.7 million) and Pennsylvania (1 million). Overall, 17.3 million Christmas trees were produced in 2012.
The three best-selling species of Christmas trees include the Fraser fir, noble fir, and Douglas fir. North Carolina is the leading producer of Fraser firs, and Oregon is the leading producer of both noble and Douglas firs. An estimated 60 million to 70 million Christmas tree seedlings are planted yearly, and the industry employs on average at least 100,000 people.
Is the Christmas tree industry in decline?
The National Agricultural Statistics Service keeps a close eye on Christmas tree production in the United States. And for many years, it has warned of a decline in Christmas tree farms and productions as they face competition from easier-to-manage artificial trees.
"Consumers have been purchasing increasing numbers of artificial trees in recent years as many of them have been frustrated about the messiness caused by needle drop from trees that were harvested as much as two months before Christmas," one 2013 NASS report warned.
But 2014 was actually a banner year for Christmas tree farms, according to the Census of Horticultural Specialties: There were 3,352 Christmas tree operations and 19.9 million trees sold for $366.6 million. When compared with 2009 totals, 2014 marks a 47 percent increase in revenue and 7.1 million more trees sold.
It's hard to quantify what this boom means for the Christmas tree industry due to the infrequency with which the data is collected. One can't track year-over-year growth for the Christmas tree industry, as the census is published only every five years, and there was a span from 1998 to 2009 when it wasn't published at all.
The 2013 NASS report did try to offer some helpful advice to Christmas tree farms trying to stay afloat and appeal to customers with a bit less space for a tree in their lives (or apartments).
"Some consumers will be seeking live trees that are unique in size (taller and thinner or short and squat) and appearance (less formally sheared, more protruding branches to accommodate broad swaths of decoration)," the report concludes.