Christmas tree harvest underway on Vancouver Island as shortage looms

Christmas tree harvest underway on Vancouver Island as shortage looms

Mike Gogo pulled the trigger Friday and harvested this year’s Christmas tree crop.

As the snow line dropped on the surrounding Nanaimo mountains, the threat of the white stuff cutting off access to the seasonal staple approached.

“Oh, absolutely. We have no control of nature, but you just have to hope,” said Gogo.

“Yeah, it’s pretty tough when the snow’s on the ground,” said tree cutter Jeff Hagg.

Gogo, 77, was nearly ready for anything to happen by now, especially after two years of a record drought that destroyed new plantings by the thousands.

“It’s really, really a concern. At least 10 or 15,000,” he told CHEK News in August 2021.

The Gogo family estimates it has up to 80,000 trees on its massive Nanaimo property, so they were relieved to see at least this fall’s ready-for-harvest trees seem unscathed.

“These trees look good, I probably haven’t lost 1/4 of one per cent of the trees here,” said Gogo.

On Friday, Bob Russell was seeing the same strong harvest on his Cowichan Valley farm, after it was hit hard by drought and heat domes.

“I lost 100 per cent of the seedlings that I planted last year. This year I’ve lost about 70 per cent,” said Russell, owner of Sahtlam Tree Farm.

According to Russell, while Christmas tree shortages are surfacing on the Lower Mainland and Washington State due to drought and supply chain issues, Vancouver Island’s Christmas tree crops are looking strong, for this year at least.

Christmas trees are cut seven years after planting, and most Island growers lost the majority of their seedlings over the last two years.

“In year three, year four, we’re going to have a depletion in marketable trees,” said Russell.

So Gogo’s now 94-year-old farm is switching up how it grows Christmas trees, no longer depending on the once reliable rainforest climate to grow its crops.

“Our thinking has to change. From you plant a tree, you prune it, to you plant a tree, you take care of it, or you lose it,” added Gogo.

His now fifth-generation Christmas tree farm hopes to keep growing the centrepiece of Islanders’ Christmases for many more years to come.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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