For nearly 20 years, valley residents have been able to purchase a fresh Christmas tree from the Methow Valley Community Center Tree Sale in the Hank’s Harvest Foods parking lot. Proceeds from the sale of trees benefit the Community Center with the necessary funds to continually upgrade and maintain the historic landmark. The community kitchen, gymnasium refurbishment, bell tower restoration and exterior painting are just a few of the many projects the center has been able to accomplish thanks to the sale of trees.
The Tree Sale fundraiser was the brainchild of Larry Smith, longtime resident, and former president of the Community Center. The sale started in 2001 and has been the only reliable source of commercially available trees in the valley ever since. Sourcing the trees, purchasing them, and hauling them to Twisp is no small ordeal, but to Larry, it’s about community.
Each November, Smith travels down to southwest Washington to select the bundle, negotiates with wholesale tree farmers, and hauls them back here in his travel trailer. This year the 259 trees came from Pacific Timber in Lacey. But, for years, Smith would travel as far as Salem, Oregon, to select the trees from the Silver Mountain Tree Farm.
Larry, accompanied by fellow Twisp High School grad John Doran, comprise a duo who together make the sale into an annual event of its own — complete with a warm fire, decorated tents and friendly conversation to welcome shoppers, creating a festive environment. This year, however, sales are a little uncertain. Typically, the tree sales hinge around predictable traditions that have been radically altered from the pandemic. The holiday bazaars often bring in a rush of tree shoppers who follow up bazaar shopping with the ritual of finding a tree. Similarly, following church services on Sundays, shoppers routinely search for their tree. According to Doran, Thanksgiving weekend brings in the first rush of eager tree buyers, but the second weekend in December tends to the busiest time at the tree tent.
The trees are high-quality Noble firs. Native to southwest Washington and Oregon, Noble firs are known for their stout stature, fragrant alpine aroma and bluish-green tint. They are the primo of all Christmas trees. Like all commercial trees, they are sheered to create more robust foliage. During the economic downturn in 2008-2009, the commercial Christmas tree industry took a big hit, and many farms were unable to replant, creating a glut in the tree market that growers are just beginning to recover from. Farmers either didn’t cut for a few years, creating an abundance of taller trees, or didn’t replant, adding to a scarcity of smaller ones. It takes about eight years for the average tree to go to market.
Priced at $10/foot, one needs to consider the number of years, the fertilization, and the shearing that a tree farmer puts into the conscientious care of the trees. Smith hauls the trees up here for free and the trees are priced to be reasonably affordable to local families. Trees of all sizes are available, even 3-4 footers, but according to Smith, it’s the taller ones that go fast.
The annual tree sale welcomes any volunteers who want to spend a few hours at the tent selling trees. If you are interested in helping out at the tree sale and by proxy, the Community Center and tree duo could use a break now and again. Stop by the tent or call Larry at (509) 322-5603 to offer up a few hours of help.