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home : news : news Friday, December 15, 2017

12/6/2017 Email this articlePrint this article 
Buy early; Xmas tree shortage hits area
Recession, drought get blame for poor supply that could last for years

By Tom Pantera

That tree you will put presents under this Christmas might cost you a bit more - and you'd better hurry if you want to find a real one.

A shortage of trees is expected nationally this year, a problem a decade in the making.

National media accounts are blaming the shortage, in part, on the Great Recession. Starting in 2007, growers began planting fewer trees during the slumping economy. And now, when those trees would have been mature and ready for gifts, not as many are available.

One local grower has seen such a run on his stock that his sales season will be cut in half.

Bill and Wendy Hainstock, who grow and sell trees near Delmar, normally stop selling trees on the weekend before Christmas. But the couple said their business, Hainstock Christmas Trees, is now closed for the season, the earliest it has closed in more than 25 years.

"I'm short of product this year," he reported.

By last weekend - he was open only on weekends or by appointment - he had about 50 trees left; in a normal year he would have 100 to 150.

Hainstock doesn't blame the shortage on the economy, but on that traditional farmer's bugbear - weather.

Tree planting was depressed by drought eight or nine years ago, he said.

But while he has fewer trees, he hasn't raised his prices.

"I've always kept my prices the same," Hainstock said. "I haven't changed my prices in the last 10 or 15 years."

But he noted that prices in other places in the area are $10 to $20 a tree higher.

'Demand growing'

Some growers already are sold out.

Michael Bauer of Timber Creek near Long Grove sold out in three days over Thanksgiving weekend

"I've had increasing demand each year," Bauer said, "and I've not been able to expand production."

In fact, this is the third year he has sold out in one weekend. Before that, he was able to operate for three weekends, he said.

"My issue is my demand is growing, even though I don't advertise," he said.

Nationally, the two states that grow the most Christmas trees had different problems with Mother Nature.

North Carolina growers reported their crop was hurt by drought, while Oregon's output suffered from wildfires, according to GWD Forestry.

While Canadian growers are stepping in to help supply the U.S., GWD reported, a lack of available quality seedlings will mean the shortage of popular-sized Christmas trees is likely to continue through at least 2025.

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