Getting a real Christmas tree this year? Here’s what you need to know.| Local News

Getting a real Christmas tree this year? Here’s what you need to know.

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The artificial Christmas tree industry faces challenges this holiday season due to continued disruptions in the global supply chain.

Like many decorations and gifts, artificial trees are often imported from China, so port congestion and shipping delays are affecting the schedule and availability this year. As a result, experts recommend that Americans order their fake trees as soon as possible to ensure on-time delivery for the holiday festivities.

But what about real Christmas trees? Rumors of shortages tend to crop up year after year, but is that the case in 2021? And how are the effects of climate change and current supply chain issues affecting our ability to install one of these green centerpieces in our homes?

Below, industry experts share their thoughts on the 2021 Christmas tree season.

What about rumors about natural tree shortages?

Lately, it seems like every year there are headlines or news clips about the sale of tree lots – sparking fears of natural tree shortages around the holiday season. But there can be some misconceptions involved.

“We have never run out of Christmas trees in the United States,” said Tim O’Connor, executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association. “The supply of trees has, however, become more limited. Previously, growers had planted too many trees and there weren’t enough buyers to buy them all. So it was a tough time for the industry – everyone was selling their trees at a loss.

Today vacation buyers don’t see the surpluses of the 1990s and 2000s as many farmers downsized their operations and started planting fewer trees in the midst of the Great Recession. O’Connor explained that it takes an average of seven to ten years to grow a tree, so we’ve been feeling the effects in recent holiday seasons.

With less excess product, some lots of trees might sell out faster, but consumers should still be able to find trees in other locations.

“When we hear about Christmas tree shortages, it’s less about not having enough trees, but more that your tree might not be where you want it to be. and the type you want him to be, “said James Farmer, associate professor. at the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.

“For example, Fraser firs are a popular variety but not native to most places, so they are difficult to grow and must be shipped across the United States from places with favorable climates,” a- he added.

“When we hear about Christmas tree shortages, it’s less about not having enough trees, but more that your tree might not be where you want it to be. and the type you want him to be. “

– James Farmer, Associate Professor at Indiana University

Farmer and O’Connor both noted that demand for real trees increased in 2020 when people were turned back home during the pandemic holiday season and were looking to foster some Christmas cheer.

“Here in Indiana, most of the trees on Christmas tree farms sold out in about two weekends,” Farmer recalled, adding that the U-cut options were particularly popular. “People were looking for those experiences, being outside on a big farm and it’s socially distanced. We interviewed 25 farmers and all but two had sold. “

On the wholesale side, demand has also increased, but supply is also limited.

“A lot of wholesale tree buyers want more than in the past, but they’re having a hard time finding them,” O’Connor said. “Growers who grow trees have already sold them or made commitments to customers with a history, so that’s part of what is fueling the scarcity stories lately. In the last few years, you would arrive from mid-December to the end of December, and most people who wanted a tree already had one. But the tree lots would still have a few hundred trees available. Last year that number was drastically reduced and almost all available trees were sold.

How is climate change affecting supply?

While the decrease in overall planting is the simplest explanation for the drop in supply in the Christmas tree industry, the other big factor that tends to come up in these conversations is climate change. Environmental factors like droughts and rising temperatures can reduce the number of viable trees on a farm.

“Here in the Midwest, Indiana, about nine years ago, we had a severe drought and a lot of trees died, so many U-shaped forest farms have missing stocks from that period.” , Farmer explained. “This summer there was all the news about Christmas tree farms in the Pacific Northwest. They are experiencing the hottest temperatures and driest months on record. And the younger the trees, the more vulnerable they are because they don’t have an established root system.

Nathan Howard via Getty Images

A worker at Noble Mountain Tree Farm in Salem, Oregon in November 2020.

O’Connor confirmed that NCTA members who grow Christmas trees have reported high temperatures this year, but he said the situation is affecting growers in the region differently. As a result, it is difficult to generalize about the impact on the industry as a whole.

“In agriculture, micro-climates really matter,” he said. “There are growers whose microclimatic conditions have caused this heat to settle in a valley and they have suffered significant damage to their trees – usually not dead, but some are damaged to the point that they cannot be sold. This year. But just across the hill, another producer didn’t have as much of a negative impact.

Christmas tree farms take time to rotate, as it takes on average almost a decade for trees to grow, and some varieties will only thrive under special conditions available in specific locations. But farmers are learning to adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.

“The seedlings that many of our growers planted this spring had a high wastage rate, but they are turning to fall planting as a new practice,” O’Connor explained. “What they’re learning is that trees planted in the fall generally get cooler, wetter temperatures and have a better start to growth than those planted in the spring – which was typical so that’s a change. in cultural norms. They are also experimenting with other varieties of trees that can better handle these changing conditions.

Will supply chain disruptions cause problems?

While the current supply chain disruptions involve congested ports and shipping delays overseas, there are also issues of worker shortages and delivery delays in the United States.

So far, O’Connor says he hasn’t seen a major impact on the real Christmas tree industry, which relies on a system of trucks to deliver firs, spruces and more. offers to lots and customers across the country.

“It’s certainly possible that on an individual basis, someone’s Christmas trees are having difficulty with trucking,” he said. “But in general, I haven’t heard from our members that their trucking situation is different at this point. It’s part of their business that was built years ago. They have a long-standing relationship with the trucks they use. So if it’s going to be impacted, it’s going to be a bit of a surprise. “

Beyond batch deliveries, Christmas tree purchases typically involve face-to-face transactions, as people often go to local farms to make a selection. If you want your best choice of tree variety and retailer, O’Connor recommends going early in the buying window.

“The season usually starts the day after Thanksgiving, so Friday is the opening day for most farms and lots,” he explained. “Last year some opened a week before because customers contacted them to come early to buy a tree. Still, this weekend after Thanksgiving is a good time to buy a tree. This is roughly the maximum amount of time you can keep a tree in good condition before Christmas.

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