According to the latest statistics, 2015 has so far been a big year for the purchase of live Christmas trees. This is interesting data given the fact that more and more people are turning to artificial trees for their holiday decor. Yes, I’ve been tempted, but I still prefer the smell and touch of a live tree. To me, there is nothing like the deep earthy aroma of a fresh Douglas fir to liven up my holidays.
The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) reports that consumers consistently spend over one billion dollars each year on fresh, farm-grown Christmas trees. In 2014 that amounted to 26.3 million trees, compared to 13.9 million fake ones. Trees can be purchased from a growing variety of locations including garden centers, Choose & Cut farms, retail stores, nonprofit groups (such as Boy Scouts and churches) and now over the Internet.
I love when the first shipments begin arriving in my area. Something about their tightly wrapped forms, piled one atop another, fills me with anticipation.
Perhaps this is because I still remember vividly our local Choose & Cut farm. As a child, a trip to the Christmas tree farm was an experience like no other. My dad would pack my little sister and me in the car and off we’d go to the tree-cutting mecca. Our favorite farm was located out in the countryside of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.
I can still recall the crunch of gravel as we pulled up the drive. We always parked our car next to the shop with the hot cider. My dad would ceremoniously draw his vintage saw from the trunk and if we were lucky, there’d be snow as we made our way, single file, up the slope to the Christmas tree area.
Entering into the woods was like entering another world. I loved squinting up at the bared branches as they cut lines against the pale winter sky. As the smell of pine grew closer, we’d pick pinecones from the hundreds of brown specimens littering the ground. Finally, the Christmas trees would appear, dotted across the hillside.
The time taken to select the tree was usually determined by how cold my sister and I were when we arrived. Soon, we’d be squatting on the ground inspecting the tree trunk, holding up a branch or two as our dad sawed away. We’d drag (well, really dad would drag) the tree back down the hill and tie it to the car. And that’s pretty much how things would go.
This year is a particularly busy one for cut trees due to a variety of factors. Many tree lots are feeling the pressure of higher demand based on simple supply-side economics. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the total amount of acreage in the U.S. devoted to tree production actually declined over the past decade (about 31% from 2002 to 2012), followed by a decrease in the number of Christmas tree sellers.
The decrease was caused in part by an oversupply, coupled with the effects of the 2008-2009 recession. Since it takes six to 10 years to harvest trees (ranging in height from 4 to 8 feet), many tree farmers switched to producing other crops over the past few years. And since they were already stockpiling trees, they planted fewer ones.
Now, recent reports indicate that with fewer trees available and increasing demand, some area sellers are beginning to feel a Christmas tree squeeze; one that may translate to higher prices in the future. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Although I’ve considered purchasing a fake one, each year I find myself back at the local nursery running my fingers along the pungent rows of trees and inhaling their deep forest scent. I no longer drag the tree down the hill (the guys load it on my car), but my girls help me drag it in to the house and place it on its stand. Suddenly my winter home takes on a whole new demeanor.
We string the lights and illuminate the tree and a soft note quietly permeates our home. I smile as I watch my children decorate, lovingly unwrapping each ornament before they hang it on the tree.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. May the New Year bring you all good things.