Keeping a Family Tradition
October 25th, 2018 by Scott Laird

Owners Sandy and Jeff Jamison, and official customer greeter Cole, are ready for their 11th year selling trees in Oregon’s Upper Nehalem River Valley.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas trees at a throwback farm in Oregon’s Nehalem River Valley

The Christmas season means different things to different people. Holiday traditions such as hanging a wreath on the front door or decorating the house with colorful lights is part of the holiday charm.

A cherished tradition for many families is picking out their Christmas tree.

Some families tromp off into the woods to cut down a tree. Others buy theirs from a lot, supporting a local community group. Another option is to visit a local Christmas tree farm where you can walk the property and pick just the right tree for your home.

While Christmas trees are big business in the Northwest, many tree farms are small, family-run businesses such as Mike’s Christmas Tree Farm, which is tucked in the northwest corner of Oregon’s scenic Upper Nehalem River Valley, in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range between the small rural communities of Vernonia and Mist.

Jeff and Sandy Jamison bought the property in April 2007 after moving from California, where they ran a tile installation business. The farm came with a fixer-upper 1936 home.

Previous owner Mike Cook converted what was once a working family farm—complete with pastures for dairy cows, chickens and fields of hay, potatoes and onions—into a tree farm in the 1980s.

“Mike passed away, ironically enough, on Christmas Day from terminal cancer,” says Jeff. “People knew it as Mike’s, so we’ve kept the name.”

The farm had been left unattended for a number of years before the Jamisons came along.

“It needed some love and some hard work, and that’s what we did,” says Jeff.

The Jamisons experienced a major setback right at the start when the Nehalem River bordering their farm flooded in December 2007, causing extensive damage right when they were kicking off their first season selling trees.

It took several years to get the farm fully operational, but Jeff and Sandy stuck with it and are now preparing for their 11th season selling trees.

The 5-acre farm has about 5,000 trees, including the standard noble firs, grand firs, Douglas firs and Nordman firs.

The Pacific Northwest is famous for its Christmas tree farms. Oregon leads the nation in sales of Christmas trees, with more than 7 million trees sold in recent years from more than 700 farms.

What makes Mike’s unique are the other types grown and sold. They nurture 10 different varieties, including balsam fir, Turkish fir, blue spruce, Serbian spruce and Norway spruce.

“Sandy and I like fooling around with different trees,” Jeff says. “We’ve even planted a few sequoias.”

Families walk the farm and choose their tree. Since the ground is pretty flat, family members of all ages are able to participate in the tree selection.

Once a family identifies its perfect tree, Jeff heads out with a quad and trailer, cuts down the tree and hauls it back to the shop area. There, it is shaken to remove loose needles, cleaned, measured, wrapped and loaded on the family’s vehicle.

“It’s kind of old school out here in the country,” says Jeff. “We like doing things the old-fashioned way.”

The Jamisons decorate their farm for the holiday season. Sandy sells handmade ornaments and wreathes she makes from fresh-cut boughs. An old 55-gallon wood stove in the shop warms them and visitors.

“During the busy part of our season, we’ll get a bunch of people out here,” says Sandy. “They all know each other because this is small town country. They all get to visiting with each other. It’s really nice.”

Jeff says sales have been steady and slowly growing the last five years. Last year, the farm surpassed the 300 mark in trees sold in a single year for the first time.

The Jamisons look forward to customers returning each year so they can watch children grow from toddlers to teens.

They continue to plant trees, which take six to eight years to mature to sale size. Trees are hand pruned and shaped throughout the year, although Jeff says they like to leave their trees a little bit more natural.

“We don’t really like them to look too perfect,” he says. “We don’t plant them in neat rows, and we have all the different varieties and sizes mixed together. Sandy and I like the way it looks, and we’re the ones that live here the rest of the year, so we keep it the way we like it.”

Mike’s Christmas Tree Farm opens the day after Thanksgiving. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Mondays, when they are closed.