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1951 Christmas tree harvest.

Nobody ever said that being a Christmas tree grower was easy. This attached letter from my Grandmother to her bookkeeper offers a glimpse of some of the hardships and struggles that growers dealt with in earlier days, while trying to harvest natural trees from wild, high elevation stands. Things are still tough for today’s growers, although their hardships and struggles are not the same as my Grandparent’s. Farmers are an amazing bunch!

Click on the link below, then when it redirects you back to the post, click on the red on again. (I am not a website guy)

1951 Christmas tree harvesting… Nobody said it would be easy!

2018 Bishop and Mathews Christmas Tree Forecast

We recently returned from our annual  Spring trek to the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree growing region. During this trip, we visit as many farms as we can. The growers are pretty rested and relaxed this time of year, so we get some quality time with them. What we learn from them during these visits explains a lot about our current situation as retailers, and also provides us with insight as to what we may expect from the farms in the future.
One grower that we visited told us that he has been increasing planting, and expects to have more trees available starting next year.  We think that overall 2018 availability will be similar to 2017.
It looks like the last few years of grower price hikes have put the farms back on solid ground. We think that prices may have stabilized. An overall shortage still exists, however. The farms that have contracts with big box retailers are still scouring other farms to purchase trees in an effort to honor their own commitments. We don’t think this will affect us any differently than it already has.  We are frequently reminded by the mid sized farms that we buy from however, that filling our orders of mixed species, sizes, grades, and split loads, is more time consuming, complicated, and costly than most of their other customer’s orders. Reading  between the lines, they are telling us that although they maintain their loyalty to us, if we weren’t around, they wouldn’t have to work quite as hard, and would probably make a few more bucks. One grower told us that it can take up to an hour longer to load one of our trucks.
The biggest challenge that the grower’s are facing today is the continually increasing shortage of labor. Another is their continually increasing operating costs across the board. Those that survived the recession and tree glut are having to make changes in order to become more productive and efficient in order to survive in today’s farming environment. One that we know is experimenting with narrowing the taper on some of his trees, to lighten them up and make them easier to handle. This would also reduce freight costs by loading more of these trees in a van, and increase productivity by planting more trees in the same field. We don’t know if or when we may actually see a shipment of trees like this get delivered to a retailer. Another has stopped growing anything over 8 ft., because of their weight and the difficulty of handling them. One grower explained that in the same amount of space and time it takes to grow a 16 ft. tree, he could grow 8  7/8 ft. trees twice. In addition, the risk of damage to them during harvest, baling, loading, shipping, etc, is greater since the branches tend to be more brittle than on others.  We may see a future decrease in the overall availability of bigger trees.
Truck drivers’ hours of service regulatory requirement for trucks to be equipped with electronic logging devices is now in effect.  The new regulations could translate to a decrease in truck availability, and an increase in  freight costs. Unfortunately there is no way to know until the shipping Season actually begins.

Oregon Farmers See Christmas Tree Shortage

Oregon Farmers See Christmas Tree Shortage

As the 2017 Christmas tree season approaches farmers are beginning to see that the over abundance of Christmas trees is no longer on issue.  In fact, it is quite opposite.  Farms are now seeing a shortage in trees faster than they had thought.  Here is an interesting article discussing the Christmas tree shortage in the  upcoming years.

Receiving your Christmas trees

   Delivery Process

Receiving your Christmas trees is normally a simple process. Getting them to you can be a different story, however. Several parties are involved, and a multitude of factors can arise and affect your delivery and order. It is essential that all parties know and follow guidelines in order to successfully transfer the possession of your trees from the farm, to the driver, and finally to you.  Bishop and Mathews has to account for all of the trees on the grower’s tally. Most of the time the farm tally matches up with the customer’s, give or take a tree or two, and everyone is happy. In the unfortunate case that a customer has a large discrepancy to claim, however; the customer must follow certain steps and procedures for us to be able to prove a discrepancy exists, we then present it to the farm, and get credits processed

From the farm to your lot

  • The farm loads your trees one at a time by placing them on a conveyor belt.  A different person tallies each tree as it passes by. In case of multiple receivers, farms use systems to differentiate or separate one order from another. Common dividing systems are plastic netting and plastic sheeting.  Some farms differentiate loads by painting dots on the butts of  one receiver’s trees, but not the other’s; instead of placing a barrier between them.
  •  Once the de-truck is loaded, the driver signs for the trees, and puts a seal on the doors. He has now  taken possession of these trees and is responsible for delivering them per farm tally to you.

Once you verify the seal is intact, the driver opens the doors. For a multitude of possible reasons, farms occasionally have to make last minute substitutions/changes to customers orders,  whether we like it or not. We agree to substitutions when we enter in to our Purchasing Agreement.  As a result the  trees that the farm loaded may not always exactly match up with what you ordered.

The farm/driver tally sheet reflects what the farm actually loaded for you and shows what the driver is responsible to deliver to you.  It is your responsibility to accept this tally sheet upon delivery and re-tally as you offload your order. By following this procedure, a tally is created which can be compared to the farm tally, to check for errors, shortages, substitutions,   mispicks, or mistags at the farm, or a previous stop.

Discrepancy Process

  • If discrepancies between the 2 tallies exist, call Bishop and Mathews immediately and alert the driver. The driver needs to double check, agree, and verify the discrepancy in writing.  This creates a reliable document that Bishop and Mathews can present to the farm if credit is requested. We will then also immediately get to work doing everything possible to make things right again for you and your customers.
    • We vigorously pursue our customer’s concerns with the growers. If you do not have this documentation, however, it can be difficult and often impossible for the farm to understand and agree with your request. In this case, we would be obligated to pay the farm per their tally for your trees, would bill you for the same, and create a conflict between us that would not resolve well, so lets not do that!!
  • The Customer should email or fax should Bishop and Mathews within 24 hours of delivery for credit due to damage, quality, grading, sizing discrepancies, etc.,   It must include photos of every tree, and show it’s defect. Credit requests will not considered at the end of the Season.
  •  Our purchasing agreement also provides guidelines  for us to follow so that we can successfully work together and achieve the common goal of you the customer’s satisfaction.

Ron Bishop

Bishop and Mathews Christmas Trees


Big rise in Christmas tree sales

Good news from San Diego regarding an upturn in Christmas Tree sales


Sales of real Christmas trees got off to a brisk start this holiday season and continued at a healthy pace, increasing by the highest level since 2008, according to the following article from U-‘T San Diego.

Purchases made in the first week following Thanksgiving rose by 16 percent compared with the same week in 2012, then tapered off for an 8 percent increase overall during the 26-day stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Experts said the early rush was thanks to a shorter holiday season, which likely prompted consumers to buy their trees more quickly.

The newly released figures came from the ISI Group, an international market research firm that tracks Christmas tree sales through weekly surveys of regional tree associations, farmers and retailers. The company had reported a 5 percent increase in sales for 2012.

The average amount that people spent on a real Christmas tree in 2012 rose to $40.30, with total sales of $1.01 billion, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. The group has not released its statistics for this holiday season.

“We found it was a pretty good season for a lot of the tree sellers,” said Oscar Sloterbeck, head of surveys for the ISI Group. “It was better than it’s been in the last several years. A number of the people we spoke with said things were particularly strong right after Thanksgiving because the weather was conducive.”

He said bad weather in later weeks across parts of the Midwest and Northeast slowed things down, but that many sellers still ran out of inventory by the end of the season.


For example, while Home Depot has not finalized its sales figures for real Christmas trees this holiday period, it anticipated selling 2.8 million of them — up from 2.5 million the previous year.

In general, Christmas tree farmers and sellers in San Diego County said it was a great stretch of business.

“Oh my goodness, it was a fantastic year,” said Vickie Christian, owner of Pine Tree Acres in Ramona, one of four cut-your-own tree farms in San Diego County. “With the short season, because of Thanksgiving coming a week later than usual, that made us extra busy.”

Christian has not calculated her total sales for this year, but estimates that they grew about 25 percent from 2012. Many of her customers were first-timers, she said.

The season went exactly as planned for Richard Gass, owner of Family Christmas Tree Farm in El Cajon, which has been around since 1972.

“We sold all the trees we had for sale,” which was in the thousands, he said.

Operators of The Pinery in Escondido, which sells living, potted Christmas trees to big-box stores and other retailers across the United States, Canada and Mexico, said they also sold out of their inventory this year.

Only Pinery Christmas Trees in Escondido, which imports its trees from the Pacific Northwest, reported a dip in sales this holiday season. Owner Norm Osborne estimated that his business had a 2 percent drop-off from the 2012 level. His goal was to have about 150 trees left at each of his five locations, but he had a couple hundred left at each site on Dec. 24.

Among people who buy real Christmas trees, about one-quarter get them from chain stores and roughly one-quarter go to farms where they can choose and “harvest” the trees themselves, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. Others purchase their trees from garden centers or through churches and community groups selling them for fundraising.

Most sellers chip their unsold Christmas trees into mulch, either on their own, through recycling centers or via community recycling programs like the one hosted by the San Diego Environmental Services Department.


L.A. Times article about Christmas tree lots

Here is a link to an interesting article from L.A. Times about Christmas tree lot operators in Southern California.,0,124255.story?page=1#axzz2vCF9IUXc




The man who makes it ALL happen, thank you Ron for supplying the best of the best trees and helping us both carry on the Christmas tradition in fine form! My business would not be the same without you.

Jon Bell
Deep Roots Garden Center

Ron, I wanted to thank you for the great relationship we've shared all these years and for the many years of supplying us with quality cut trees at competitive prices - and for putting up with us and all the inevitable craziness that ensues each Christmas season. Good luck to you, Ron, with 2013 and future seasons. Both Dan and I want to extend our heartfelt thanks for everything you have done for us over the years.

Frosty's Forest

Thanks Ron...your trees are amazing, and look great on the set!

Josh Kleim
Wipeout TV

Early season sales have been great, and the trees are gonna make us famous. We have trees in several of the Laker's homes and the training facility, on a well known home tour, and a few other high profile musicians and producers. The quality is so amazing and the feedback equally so, this is really the true jumpstart to my business. Thanks Ron!

Jon Bell
Deep Roots Garden Center Manhattan Beach, Ca.

I had so many people tell me that your Christmas Trees were the best they had ever had. Thanks again.

Robert Dorchak, Inderkum High School

Thank you for delivering gorgeous Christmas Trees to us for our Christmas Tree Lot Sales In December 2007.

Troop 36, Goleta, Ca.

Our sales for 2009 were the worst in 15 years of owning the lot. I really appreciate everything you did for us this season. You saved us from a complete disaster financially and for this, I am very grateful.
I look forward to working with you in 2010.
Happy Holidays.


Ron, Just a quick note to let you know all went well with the tree lot this year. Having not retailed for quite a while I was concerned with the outcome from the beginning. The trees I ordered from you were top quality, fresh and delivered right on time which put things off to a good start. All went well and we sold over 97% of our inventory (which I consider very good). Look forward to doing business with you next year. Thanks,

Tracy Porter

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Ken Bishop started a garden supply store called “Bishop and Mathews” in 1927. It quickly became a thriving garden supply center in Los Angeles.

Ken Bishop

Ken Bishop

In 1928, he decided to try his hand in the Christmas tree business by bringing in carloads of Christmas trees to the rail yards at 8th and Alameda for the purpose  of wholesale distribution to retailers. At that time Christmas trees were sold primarily from retail lots and Nurseries. Southern Pacific had established this acreage for the purpose of unloading produce and freight from their boxcars before the turn of the century. Prior to the 1050’s nearly everything was shipped by rail. Other businesses were soon to follow with wholesale yard.

At that time the only Christmas trees available were wild Douglas Fir, White Fir, and Red Fir (Silver Tip). He and his crew traveled to the slopes of Mt. Shasta, cut natural Silvertip Christmas trees, and brought them down to the team tracks at 8th and Alameda for resale. Ken also purchased rail car loads of Douglas fir Christmas trees from Washington Farms, and brought them into the wholesale yard by rail car.

Wholesale and retail buyers of Christmas trees soon discovered this area. They flocked to the team tracks to get their trees. Thousands of retail customers from all over Los Angeles flooded the area. There were also a number of other tree companies that brought trees in. Over the years, the team tracks became the major supplier of Christmas trees in the southwest. Many times there were as many as 200 rail cars full of Christmas trees at the tracks at one time.  Families would come in to watch the trains moving around and the trees being unloaded and shipped to various locations. Even though the location was in one of the worst areas of Los Angeles, people would drive from all areas to come down to buy their trees fresh out of the boxcar. Thousands of retail buyers arrived daily to walk through the numerous retail lots which sprang up in the area. It was possibly the largest retail Christmas tree outlet ever existing.  On the weekends the place was a circus with all types of vendors all wanting a piece of the action. Lunch wagons, balloons, hot dog carts all contributed to the carnival atmosphere and people loved it. At times there were as many as 200 people on the retail lot, making it very difficult to manage. The folks in Hollywood favored the area, since they could come after 10:00PM and avoid the crowds. One  weekend while unloading a boxcar someone shouted out “how much for that one”. Another said “I’ll give you $28 for that one”. That created the auction. A platform was built to set in front of the door of the rail car and each weekend there would be an auction.

Ron Bishop auctioning off a Christmas tree

Ron Bishop auctioning off a Christmas tree

At that time there were no truck shipments, and everything came by rail. After closing down their retail lots, the retailers would come down to the tracks and pick up their trees for the next day or so. The wholesale business went on all night.

In the late 50’s, two men from Corvallis Oregon brought a pickup load of sheared Douglas fir to our farm, They had been experimenting with shearing and trimming them to try and produce a better Christmas tree. Ron purchased a carload of them. They sold like hotcakes. The next year Ron purchased 3 carloads. Buyers would show up at night with flashlights and unload the rail car themselves to fill their orders. Soon to follow were Noble and Grand fir. Since these trees seemed to be a higher quality tree than the others, they became “premium” trees, the rest were “regular”.  and tree grading began. This marked the beginning of modern Christmas tree farming as we know it today. Today their farm is the largest in the entire world.

When trucks rather than rail shipping became popular, farms began shipping directly to their retailers, and the wholesale yards were used primarily for distribution and fill ins. In 1978, after 50 years, Bishop and Mathews was forced to relocate. This signaled the end of the days at the “tracks”. We have relocated many times since, and many of our customers follow us and still purchase trees.                     Our current wholesale yard is located in Torrance, Ca.

Bishop and Mathews Mower Shop in 1927

Bishop and Mathews Mower Shop in 1927

The Ken-Del Ranch Christmas tree farm near Mt. Shasta covered over 5000 acres. It was primarily a silvertip growing area, as they tend to grow at higher elevations. As plantation grown Christmas trees became more popular, Ken eventually sold most of the farm and kept the lower ranch for summer recreation.

Ken-Del Ranch

In 1875 A devastating mountain blaze started at the base of Mt. Shasta and spread East to Pumice Stone Mountain. Within a few days, 40 miles of forest was transformed into a charred rubble. But from this ruin Silver Tip seedlings sprouted, although this legacy of Christmas trees left by the Stevens Pass burn was so dense it was difficult to penetrate.

The Bishop’s started Christmas tree farming in 1939. They originally set up tents on Swamp Creek at the base of Mt. Shasta. That was really a primitive area. The men had to move into thick virgin areas carefully, to thin out overgrown stands and give the healthiest trees a chance to see sunlight and grow. Some stumps were not even 6 inches across and had more than 70 rings because the stand was so crowded that it’s growth was suppressed. After the thinning was done, the men pruned the trees that were left. Pruning meant taking the top  off of a tree, and stripping the rest of it down to 1 ring of branches. From that a new tree would sprout and start reaching for the sun, becoming the next tree. Sometimes they had to carry the trees a quarter mile through brush fields and thickets. At night they listened to coyotes and cougars, and bears were always wandering into their camp.

Pruning a tree

Pruning a tree

wild silver tip stump culture

Ken Bishop looking at a Silver Tip grown using stump culture on the Ken Del Ranch.

The Bishops and their crew also had to contend with snow storms and freezing weather. Five years later they decided to buy land of their own, and purchased 5000 acres of wild, forested mountain area near the tiny logging community of Tennant, Ca. Over 80 miles of roads were carved into the mountains.

Bishop cabin

Bishop cabin

Navigating a recently carved out road.

Navigating a recently carved out road.

No one had tried to farm silver tips before, so the first years Ken experimented on all types of thinning and pruning methods. He did everything by trial and error. After 15 years he finally hit on a pruning method. It would take 20 years to grow a six foot tree if you planted a seedling,but with this method, you produce a tree in 12 years.

Ken Del stump culture

Ron Bishop Jr. showing off a wild Silver Tip grown using stump culture on the Ken-Del Ranch

The trunks are trimmed of most of their branches, with only a small clump remaining at the top about two feet high, with several whorls of branches lower on the trunk, which Bishop dubbed a hula hoop.

The pruning allows all the nutrients gathered by the extensive root system of a mature tree to go to the few remaining limbs. Shocking or cutting vertical slashes in the trunks reduces vertical growth when necessary and produces a desireable, fully branched, wide based tree.

Ron Bishop Sr. with a Silver tip

Ron Bishop Sr. with a Silver tip

When the top of the tree is harvested, several of the branches in the hula hoop turn skyward and start new trees. The best potential branch is selected, the others are removed, and the process is repeated on the same stump to grow a new tree every 12 years.

On October 15 of each year, Ken would slice through the bark of a tree to see if it bled. If it didn’t the growing season was over and it was safe to begin the harvest. The base camp would come alive. Alongside the dirt roads were stacked piles of cut trees waiting for a truck to pick them up. A good cutter in those days could harvest up to 250 trees per day with his hand saw. At 6500ft elevation, the threat of getting snowed in was real. Many times the crews drove up the hill at night in the snow to harvest. Ron always brought several flashlights and bottles of whiskey to keep the crew moving. Retired army half tracks were often used. Each vehicle had it’s own name. The one below was named the “Whaleback Express”.

The trees were unloaded into open areas at base camp, then sorted and tagged. The trees were graded for height, color, even whorls, and 4 sidedness. According to how well it measured up, the tree was assigned a tag that established it’s fair price.

Whaleback Express

Whaleback Express

Trees bearing the Ken-Del name tags were sent by the thousands to U.S. Navy outlets in Guam, Alaska, and the Bay Area. In California, buyers for Sears Roebuck stores, Signal Oil, Standard Oil, and dozens of other department chain stores, and independent retailers would find their way to the ranch each pre-Christmas to place orders for trees, wreaths, swags, and boughs. Two months later, 60,000 trees were brought down from the mountains.

Big tree

Big tree

The camp itself was a scattering of red frame buildings set in a mountain rimmed valley dissected by Antelope Creek. There were bunk houses, a cookhouse, barns, workshops, trailers, and cottages where buyers could stay while they selected their trees.

It had all the trappings of a lumber camp-rugged men who knew the forest, heavy machinery, power saws, half tracks, and bulldozers. Women often worked alongside the men.

Ken’s wife Flo, had a fascination for fancy and glittery things. This fascination soon led to a new and thriving business venture for the tree farm…a wreath and door charm division. She added pine cones, ribbon, and a little ingenuity to some of the boughs cut off the trees as waste, and came up with beautiful Christmas decorations for the home. A staff of local women turned out every year to assist her.

Florine Bishop decorating wreaths

Florine Bishop decorating wreaths

Eventually, plantation grown Noble Fir came on to the market, then Grand fir. It became clear to Ken that the practice of growing trees in a controlled environment was much more efficient and profitable that harvesting trees from wild stands using stump culture methods. Sales for Silvertip and White Fir began falling off, and eventually the tree farm in northern California was sold. It has now become a beautiful Fly Fishing resort, which is owned by Mike Michalak, the owner of The Fly Shop in Redding, Ca.

Ken Del Ranch wreaths

Ken Del Ranch wreaths


Many of the original customers of the old Ken Del Ranch continue to buy trees from us to this day. Today, Bishop and Mathews continues to operate as a Christmas Tree Brokerage Firm, obtaining our quality trees from Oregon farmers. One of them started out as a worker for Ron Bishop Sr. at his retail lot at 8th and Alameda in Los Angeles. He ventured out to start a farm of his own, and Ron was his first customer. We have been buying  his trees for over 30 years. Another was a young kid that planted some trees on his families farm. When Ron saw the quality of his trees, he liked them so much that he bought the entire 1st inventory. We have continued  buying the entire lot ever since, again for over 30 years.Scout