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Christmas trees battle years of weather to affect the look, supply and price

Longer growing seasons help to grow Christmas trees, locally and nationally, as the tree supply chain corrects itself.

WHITEHOUSE, Ohio — When Christmas tree farms open for the season, people start eyeing the forecast for a time to cut down the perfect tree. However, it is really the forecast in the past that matters to shape holiday trees. 

Duke Wheeler, from Whitehouse Christmas Tree Farm, has been in the tree business for decades and has seen bad and good weather. Wheeler said, "This year we planted 5,600 trees, and normally we lose 10-15% because of hot weather. And I've only seen seven to 10 dead seedlings, which is phenomenal."  

Though the weather was good for younger trees this year; that is not always the case. Whitehouse Christmas Tree Farm had an engineer come and design an irrigation system for the seedlings because some years, rainfall can be in short supply.

Year to year, each growing season is different, but data shows that the growing seasons in northwest Ohio are gradually getting longer. The longer growing season does not hurt the growth of local trees, and it helps Wheeler and his team clean and prep the farm for holiday visitors. 

Not every holiday tree is grown in northwest Ohio, as trees are grown all over the country and shipped to local garden centers and nurseries. Zach Edwards with Black Diamond in Perrysburg has Christmas trees shipped in from North Carolina where they have a longer and wetter growing season.

Though Edwards has trees shipped, that does not mean there are not different challenges.

"I think you'll see supplies as fairly tight. Historically there probably isn't as many Christmas tree farms as there has been. And demand is also up like a lot of other products. So that can lead to challenges," Edwards said.

During the housing crisis of 2008, trees were at a surplus, but as the supply chain has started to correct itself, there are now fewer tree farmers a decade later.  

Edwards mentioned that tree farms do not want to have as much of a surplus of inventory in case something like the recession were to occur again. Growers try to have a nice average number so they can sell what they anticipate. Due to the tree buying pattern since 2008, trees have become more expensive, yet a little bit undersized. 

Today's demand for real trees surges from younger consumers.

"We are starting to see the millennial generation is not into artificial trees maybe as much as previous generations. So, they see fresh-cut trees as the more sustainable alternative because trees are getting planted every time they get cut down," Edwards said.

What can you expect to pay this year for your tree?

Christmas tree prices have gone up in recent years, and this year’s prices are expected to be like last year or slightly increased.

The price increase is mainly driven by supply and labor. Wheeler said tree prices won't significantly jump, but due to increased wages for summer workers, price tags could be up a little bit this year. The weather can also drive Christmas tree prices, but it happens over a longer period. 

If you are planning on purchasing a real tree this year, both Wheeler and Edwards say the trees will be ready to go around Thanksgiving and urge consumers to shop early for the perfect tree.

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