Evergreen Ag retrenches amid turbulence

Mateusz Perkowski/Capital Press
Evergreen Agricultural Enterprises’ nursery operation, pictured here, was among 8,000 acres of land cultivated by the company in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The company has recently sold off more than 1,000 acres for $7.4 million.

Evergreen Agricultural Enterprises, a major landowner in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, has sold millions of dollars worth of farmland in last six months, government records show.

The farmland sales preceded a layoff announcement by the company’s corporate sibling, Evergreen International Airlines. Both companies are owned by Evergreen International Aviation of McMinnville, Ore.

Evergreen and its chairman, Delford M. Smith, have sold numerous tracts in Yamhill County for $7.4 million in the past six months, according to county and state records:

• In October, Evergreen Agricultural Enterprises sold roughly 540 acres for $2.8 million to Willamette Valley Land, LLC, whose registered agent is Paul Kuehne of Carlton, Ore.

• In September, Smith sold five tracts of unspecified acreage for $2.4 million to Hoffman Construction Co., a developer based in Portland, Ore.

• In June, the company sold roughly 500 acres in Yamhill County for $2.2 million to D&E Land Holdings, LLC, whose registered agent is Duane Ditchen of Silverton, Ore.

The company did not respond to numerous requests for comment from Capital Press.

The layoffs and property sales come at a time of economic turbulence for Evergreen, which grew from a cropdusting operation with three helicopters in 1960 to an international freight, transportation and logistics company.

It also invested in agricultural operations such as nursery stock, hazelnuts, Christmas trees, vineyards, grass seed and grains, with about 8,000 acres in production, according to the company’s website.

Evergreen International Airlines, one of its subsidiaries, recently reported to the State of Oregon that it planned to lay off 131 people.

The company’s human resources manager, Monique Gregory, said the airline will “end all operations” and “no longer conduct business” on Nov. 30, according to a letter she submitted to a state agency.

In a subsequent statement, however, Delford Smith, the company’s founder and chairman, said “rumors that a decision has been made to cease operations at this time is false.”

He said the company was hurt by “decreased demand in military spending and weakness in global economic markets” but was seeking “strategic alternatives.”

Earlier this year, Evergreen sold its helicopter subsidiary to Erickson Air Crane, Inc., in a deal worth about $276 million, which was intended for debt repayment and cash for operations, the company said.

Prior to the sale, Evergreen and its subsidiaries had 463 local employees, according to the Yamhill Valley News-Register, which cited a McMinnville economic development agency.

The total number of employees worldwide topped 1,800, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.



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