Ed's Blog

  • Christmas Trees

    To Our Customers;

    Shortly we begin harvesting your trees and while they are enroute to your stores I wish to take a moment to share with you information about our Christmas trees that your customers will enjoy hearing – how this custom is both family and Earth friendly.

    That Christmas tree your customers will soon be looking at began as a seed in a pine cone that fell to Earth about 8 years ago. The seed grew into a seedling in a nursery and then transplanted to our farm where we nurtured it to its present size. Somewhere along the way, and I confess this is still a mystery to me, some piece of magic grew into the tree – how else to explain how a tree turns into a Christmas tree that helps families come together, slow down and have fun giving gifts to one another?

    I would like to add that these trees are a gift from nature to us all. I like to take our customers to the middle of our field of Christmas trees where I tell them, Now you are breathing what may be the cleanest air on Earth! In a wonderfully harmonious way trees are Earth's filters absorbing much of the carbon dioxide that we release and in turn they release back into the air the very substance we jump for joy to imbibe – oxygen. We harvest that field of trees in November and in January we are planting new seedlings to continue the cycle. When the Christmas season is finally over and it is time to remove the trees they can be chipped up and added back to the soil with other soil amendments

    In short, Christmas trees grown on farms like ours help remind children of all ages that giving is fun - for many this reaches to spiritual depths - and these trees fit into the great harmonic cycle of nature. Christmas trees are nature's gifts that help put us in a generous mood. We sincerely hope our Christmas trees help to re-kindle the childlike spirit in all your customers.

    Best Regards,

    Ed, Dennis & team of Oregon Evergreen

     

  • One Day in the Life of a Christmas Evergreen Company

    The day begins at 5am – up to start a fire in our woodstove. And to be on time to rent a truck.

    A month ago one of my old customers called to say he landed a new account with a fundraiser so he wants to order an additional 7,000 wreaths – possibly upping that to 10,000 – can we handle it? Well of course, I say in the tried-n-true song of an American salesman.

    So we make the wreaths - so we are ready to respond to the additional order – then we hear sales aren’t going well – can we drop to 5,000? I remind him in my politest voice you gave me a firm order. But I don’t like to see fundraisers lose big. I can leave them on the hook for the extra 2,000 – or find a way to shift those wreaths to a new account. Enter the truck.

    I am driving the truck from Salem to Molalla – to load those now extra 2,000 wreaths, packaged into 200 cases of wreaths for another customer who has sold them to chainstores in Utah and Arizona – but her truck is due at my other dock in Aurora at 8am and there is a money-penalty if we take over 2 hours to load. Rush-rush – but I learn the truck is late so all penalties are off. Relax.

    Red flag. We have an order to deliver Christmas trees to Lowes – a national chainstore. Our order - deliver 30,000 trees to stores in Idaho, Utah, Nevada and California in 2 deliveries. I line up the 50 trucks. All is going according to plan – chainsaws are the musical instrument of choice here – until I learn there is a “No-Show” – 2 trucks for Utah stores that did not show up. The dispatcher gives me an “awfully sorry” singsong but we both know he decided to take a better offer elsewhere even after he agreed to mine – after all it’s Christmas trees so shark law applies. I am stuck trying to find trucks to service 8 stores in Utah. Not so easy at the last minute because the dispatcher can’t quickly find cargo to bring the trucks back west. Keep working, calling other truck brokers. No solution this day – I make room for plan B – explaining in my politest voice to the buyer why I can’t meet the Purchase Order for these stores.

    I have other orders this day for Christmas trees and wreaths going to a produce store in Pensacola Florida and to Spokane Washington. The trucks arrive but we don’t have all the trees on the landing so they have to wait – until we lose the sunlight and finish in the nightfall with floodlights. But in the shadows is a crisis – labor revolt. Farms in America today rely on labor contractors – these are usually young Hispanics with 4 qualifications: they are legal U.S. residents, and speak good English, and possess good organization skills; and learn the rudiments of U.S. payroll taxation. Farms call them up – say I need 10 workers today to load trees onto trucks so families will enjoy their Christmas trees this year. But what if one young labor contractor – with his coterie of workers is being threatened by another young contractor who is trying to steal some of those workers – most of them probably illegal. Well today we learned what happens – they quarrel at our loading yard. We have 5 trucks in the yard to load and Ezequiel, normally an amiable young man, tells us he will not send us any laborers until we get rid of labor contractor B – because B has insulted him. Our loading slows down to a crawl. We bark back – damn you for making your threat at harvest and loading – you are bribing us and we’ll see you in hell before we comply. We’ll tell all other farms about your attitude and threat. We ask 2 of the biggest farms to call this contractor. At the end of the day the young labor contractor calls us – he has talked to his wife and she tells him he is handling this threat from another would-be labor contractor badly – perhaps he has been hasty. He will send us laborers tomorrow if we will pay our invoice! We agree – we understand that in the stress of harvest-shipping emotions temporarily cloud judgment. We are all learning to balance Latin temperament with rural pragmatics. We move on.

    I receive a call from my San Diego customer – he wants to buy only large trees and wreaths that he can’t find on another farm but he wants to buy basic wreaths and garlands from an illegal Hispanic in Washington and would we mind that he trucks his stuff down to our yard to load? I tell him in my politest voice possible for he is my business friend – NO.

    My partner calls. We booked 12 refrigerated containers with a Korean ocean freight company to deliver trees to our Hong Kong customers. The Korean carrier called to tell us their refrigerated containers are stuck on a train in an early snow storm in Colorado. Quick calls to a Chinese carrier – yes they have containers for more money. OK bring them to us.

    Then I hear from my Los Angeles customer – his truck company won’t give him credit and will I front him the money for the first truck. I say OK because I have done business with him and his wife for 4 years and have always been paid – and I remind him in my politest voice that I expect him to re-order this season.

    It’s getting late. I have to return the truck to the rental yard by 8 pm. I check emails for the last time and see one from Puerto Rico – telling me 1 container must be fumigated. Dark clouds here – 35 containers wait to be inspected on Monday. Time to end the day. I drive the truck through the fog – I return the truck on time and call my wife – Hello I will be home shortly – do we need anything at the store?

    We ship Christmas trees and wreaths – the epitome of family peace and relaxation – and tomorrow I talk to a fumigator in Puerto Rico. I expect to see trucks for some of the 25,000 wreaths we are shipping to Walmart distribution centers in California, Texas, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Oregon and I will continue trying to find 2 trucks for Lowes stores in Utah. I will get the trees to these stores on time somehow. Their customers will buy the Christmas trees for their homes unaware what went on behind the scenes to make it possible for them to have a warm and peaceful family Christmas. As it should be.

    Merry Christmas One & All.



  • In the Land of Christmas Trees & Wreaths

    I awake, clean up, toss a piece of bread, a banana and an orange into my briefcase and head the car north on I-5. It is very cold.

    At exit 271 I take the ramp and turn east and soon city symbols recede replaced by filbert orchards, frosty pastures with horses and cattle waiting sleepily for their hay breakfast, and glistening Christmas tree plantations. As dawn breaks hues of orange and reds emerge as if from an artist's brush stroke over the Cascades.

    At the outskirts of Molalla I turn left and on my left is the largest fullest moon that I have seen in years preparing to sink beyond America's west shoreline. I turn into the driveway and drive to the end to my trailer office, unlock the door, flip the light switches, turn on the wall heater to drive out the cold, take out my laptop, plug in the Ethernet, plug into the electrical outlet, and depress the key that officially announces another workday in the land of Christmas trees & wreaths begins.

    My office trailer has waited patiently for 3 years to be cleaned. It is the picture of unpretension. No one would guess it is the headquarters for a Fortune 500 company – because it is not. As I wait for the coffee maker to make its brew I gaze at the laptop screen. So small no one would guess that it issues commands to a crew of 50 in a large shed at the west edge of town to produce wreaths and garlands made of Noble fir and Western red cedar that were brought in from high up the mountains at daybreak. Or to a smaller crew next to the trailer to proceed with specialty products like Centerpieces , Swags and Kissing balls - or to another crew at the south edge of town to begin chain sawing down hundreds more Douglas, Noble, Grand and Nordman firs from growers anxious to convert 7 year-old wet green Christmas trees to cold green cash. Through this unpretentious screen 53ft trucks are summoned to lumber in, load up and deliver this year to Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Texas, California, Mexico and Canada. Through this innocuous portal I notify trains to ship my containers to a Florida port to catch a freighter bound for Puerto Rico and more ocean freighters are notified to dock at the Port of Portland to carry our containers across the Pacific to Hawaii and Hong Kong and Singapore.

    I extend a hand through this humble screen to help Hong Kong and Puerto Rican and the Big Island and Iowa based chain store buyers to introduce our idea of merchandising Christmas trees through their stores - and to a wholesale garden center in humid Donna Texas and to a retail garden center in the California coastal town of Cambria. The keys click a percussive beat with the largest Christmas greens wholesaler in San Diego and to a husband-wife team trying to get ahead in this land of hard-to-find opportunity by managing a string of tree lots in a tough L,A. Neighborhood. My outstretched hand pushes through this swinging digital gate to talk to high school baseball and swim teams, a band, church youth groups, the cub scouts, boy scouts and girl scouts and elementary school kids and their parents from Oregon City to El Cajon Ca. and Molokai, Kauai and Oahu all learning to use small business skills with our Christmas trees, wreaths and centerpieces to raise money that sustains their after-school youth activities.

    The Canadian Customs agent leaves a message on my cell – it is imperative that you call me about trees in a truck here at the border that came from you. My Mexican customer can't find the Douglas firs in the tail of his truck – yes he knows the difference between Douglas and Noble firs – and fears he has to dig further into the truck for the border inspector. Hong Kong and Hilo customers tell me they can't find the netting that they absolutely need – the bill of lading tells me it is in their containers – but ok I will air-fedex more to you. Your driver has not called me to give me his ETA – I need to know so I can tell my volunteers when to come. You sent me too many 5/6's – I need more 7/8's.

    The day ends. I depress the key that officially puts a wrap on it, pack up the screen gate, turn off the lights and open the trailer door to absolute darkness. I re-trace my footsteps from memory back to my car thankful for my team of men and women, all nearby families, as I reflect on how many lives working in allegro – with a lively beat - together we touched today.

    In an unpretentious way a Christmas tree, earth-grown, re-kindles our indwelling generous spirit. And a wreath on the front door is a 200 generations old tradition of using winter gifts from nature to say to the family in a peace of mind way - Welcome Home. Our own traditional wreath design comes from early Oregon pioneers and we are the lucky folks that bring these symbols that bottle these messages to the world. Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Saturnalia aka Happy Kicking the Winter Blues.


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