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North Carolina

Christmas tree prices are higher this year amid a shortage

Trevor Lord has been busy this week coordinating deliveries from the parking zone of a Rita’s Italian Ice in Moorestown, one among 5 properties the place he shall be promoting Christmas timber from Black Friday – a enterprise custom for the carpenter by commerce.

South Philly native Lord and his 18-year-old enterprise associate start lining up timber for wholesale in July. Trev’s Trees gross sales peak throughout the vacation season at 5 places together with Wynnewood, Gloucester Township, Cherry Hill and Haddon Township.

“We buy about 8,600 trees a year,” Lord mentioned. “We get them from everywhere – western Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Quebec. We buy from different farms and we have relationships with all our farmers. We choose from five different trees to sell.”

But the exact farms, Lord said with a smile, he keeps secret. He ordered 1,400 trees for Rita’s property alone.

Freshly cut Christmas trees are harder to come by this year for retailers like Lord for a number of reasons, and wholesalers say their costs have risen dramatically due to inflation, so people can expect to average $5 to $10 more for one this year pay tree.

With the holiday season in full swing, some may be wondering: where does my Christmas tree come from?

Americans bought 21 million real Christmas trees in 2021. According to a survey of 2,000 people conducted by the National Christmas Tree Association, a trade association representing growers and sellers of real trees, the median cost of a tree was $69.50 (half cost more, half less), and the average buyer was 40 years old and living in a household of more than three people.

According to a 2017 United States Department of Agriculture agricultural census, Pennsylvania ranks fourth nationwide by the number of acres of Christmas trees planted and third by the number of farms. The census is conducted every five years, although the data does not appear for about another year after that. Altogether there are 1,281 farms in Pennsylvania that devote more than 30,000 acres to the production of about 1 million trees that are felled annually.

Though not a top producer, New Jersey has 888 farms growing Christmas trees on 5,288 acres, with about 86,000 trees cut down.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, people buy farm-grown trees from a variety of places, such as: B. big big department stores like Home Depot to local fundraisers.

However, sales of real Christmas trees have declined somewhat recently, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. About 12 million trees were sold in 2019, compared to a peak in 2014 when about 20 million trees were sold.

JC Hill Tree Farms, a large grower in Schuylkill County, plants about 100,000 trees annually on 700 acres. The county, Hill said, produces the most Christmas trees in the state.

Hill plants Fraser, Douglas Fir, Canaan and Fir and Blue Spruce. He sells trees wholesale throughout Pennsylvania (including Philadelphia), Virginia, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Washington, DC

“We do a lot in New Jersey,” Hill said Wednesday. “In fact, we have two trucks in New Jersey delivering Douglas fir right now. We will have a truck at Exton, near Philly, going to a Boy Scout troop.”

The most popular tree, he said, is the Fraser fir, but it’s the most difficult to grow. Hill said there is a shortage of trees because so few growers are getting into or staying in the business. Growing Christmas trees is far more labor-intensive than growing crops like wheat and corn, he said.

“I’m 63 and the typical age of a grower is about 62,” Hill said. “No one needs to get in due to all of the exhausting work.”

Tree growers have to hand-plant shoots, wait six to 10 years for them to mature, then hand-cut or dig them up, store them, and then load them onto trailers. Other crops, he said, are easy to grow and harvest with a combine.

To make matters worse: A summer drought, combined with sharply rising costs for diesel, fertilizers and chemicals. Hill said it costs $1,000 to fill a trailer truck with diesel. To compensate, he’s selling trees to retailers an average of $5 to $10 more than last year.

“We had a extreme drought this summer season and for seven to eight weeks we had seven individuals simply strolling round with vans and water tanks and irrigating overland,” Hill said. “We misplaced 40,000 timber.”

Aaron Grau, executive director of the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association, said the association receives calls from many states asking how they can find a Christmas tree supplier.

“Pennsylvania stays one of many states with the very best Christmas tree manufacturing within the nation,” Grau said, “however many growers will provide the wholesale to retail services throughout the state, not simply the massive department shops. And they’ll promote to Kiwanis golf equipment, church buildings, Boy Scout troop, backyard facilities, and so forth.”

Grau mentioned his workplace just lately acquired a name from a wrestling coach at an Ohio highschool asking how he may discover a farmer to provide timber for a fundraiser.

“Some of the calls we got were from Texas, the Midwest and as far north as Georgia, which is interesting because they’re close to the Carolinas, which are big tree producers,” he mentioned.

In truth, North Carolina is without doubt one of the largest suppliers of timber within the East.

Lord, who’s promoting the Rita’s property along with his associate Dom Patrizio, mentioned he buys North Carolina Fraser timber however they are exhausting to return by as a result of demand is so excessive coupled with a shortage of timber planted.

People like Frasers, he mentioned, as a result of they’ve sturdy branches and are good for hanging ornaments, do not drop as many needles as different timber, and provides off a nice odor.

But he additionally buys Douglas firs from Pennsylvania and Oregon. “They have a softer needle and a fuller appearance since the needles go all the way down,” Lord mentioned.

Lord’s Trees arrive in 53-foot trailers containing 700 to 1,000 timber. It will cost round $100 for a 6- to 7-foot router and $125 for a 7- to 8-foot router. A 6- to 7-foot Douglas prices about $75, whereas bigger sizes value $85 to $90.

“It’s gotten pretty big,” Lord mentioned of his enterprise. When the season is over, he famous, it’s going to assist pay for a much-needed surf journey.

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