BEAVERCREEK — The Grinch will not be visiting Guam this year: The young vendors of Guam Girl Scouts Inc. should receive their annual shipment of Oregon-grown Christmas trees any day now.

BEAVERCREEK — The Grinch will not be visiting Guam this year: The young vendors of Guam Girl Scouts Inc. should receive their annual shipment of Oregon-grown Christmas trees any day now.

"That was our first shipment of the season," said grower Stan Low, whose Highland Farm in Beavercreek is one of more than 700 Christmas tree growers licensed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

"I sent them a container of 500 trees on Halloween. They're our longest-running regular customer; we've been sending trees to Guam for 25 or 26 years."

Christmas trees are big business in Oregon, the nation's top harvester, with 8 million trees whose wholesale value was $125 million in 2007, according to the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association.

That group estimates that more than 90 percent of Northwest trees leave the region: California took 47 percent last year, and Mexico was the biggest international customer, with 13 percent. Early export numbers indicate that this year looks to be another good one for Oregon growers.

The figures for Guam's share of the market, however, are not readily available.

"That's the only business I've ever gotten from a bar conversation," says Low, a burly, silver-haired guy with a forest green shirt.

Not that Girl Scouts were drinking in that Port Townsend roadhouse near where Low used to moor his sailboat, but a guy at the bar had a friend in the insurance business in Guam, and ... . "Long story short, the insurance agency is long gone, but we still ship trees to the Girl Scouts," Low said.

Low plans to ship about 45,000 trees to retailers this season, most of them over the next three weeks. That explains all the activity at 7 a.m. on a Sunday.

A crew prepared to load two trucks with several hundred tightly baled Noble firs for the four Dennis' Seven Dees nursery locations.

"We had a lot of this equipment specially built for us," said Low.

He pointed to what he called an elevator, a long clattering inclined conveyor on wheels that can poke its snout into a truck bed to minimize the hauling and heaving — a good thing when you're tugging at a 9-foot Noble fir that can weigh 250 to 300 pounds.

Anything that minimizes labor costs is a good thing, Low said. He employs a crew of about 30 during the busy months.

The change to sustainable growing practices has meant savings, too, he said.

Few chemicals were used on trees back in 1964 when his dad, Joe, planted the first trees on the property off Unger Road, but as regulators approved more chemicals, their use spread.

But over the past three years, Low reckons he's cut back on chemicals by 50 or 60 percent. "When the price of gas hits four bucks a gallon — and chemicals are all petroleum-based — it's time to rethink and stop being stubborn."

That suits a changing market.

"Our customers are starting to look for sustainably grown and harvested trees," said Dennis' Seven Dees tree buyer Dave Etchepare as he walked among the neat palisades of bundled trees and selected the ones he wanted loaded.

"Now what we have to do is convince people that they're not killing a tree, they're using a harvested plant, one that's been growing and fixing carbon for eight or 10 years, and as soon as it's cut, a new seedling is planted."

Low is guardedly optimistic about the season.

"You'd have to be a pretty poor salesman," he said, "if you couldn't make the case that one of my trees isn't a lot greener than a plastic Christmas tree from China."

Fuel costs are down and trucks are available, and shipping to California will probably be cheaper than the $3,000 a load he was prepared to pay before the economy imploded.

And there's a theory — he doesn't subscribe to it wholeheartedly — that economic downturns mean people revert to tradition. Christmas trees, in other words. Except for that troubling, increasing percentage of the population that doesn't buy Christmas trees.

"I'd rather try and get a plastic-tree customer back," Low said, "than try to figure why some people just won't buy 'em at all."