There was a shortage of Christmas trees over the 2019 holidays, as reported on a national level, and local vendors acknowledge that the industry has seen some problems with supplies. But as far as obtaining trees and how sales went with their Middlesex County customers, it was business as usual in December.
According to the Associated Press and numerous other news sources, the 2019 Christmas tree business had yet to recover from the 2008 recession. That economic downturn resulted in more people buying artificial trees and consequently many tree farms planted fewer seedlings as demand decreased. And it may take a while longer for those young trees to reach maturity and be ready for the marketplace. A PBS report noted that several unusually rainy seasons, especially in southern regions of the U.S., hurt growth and consequently that may delay the tree harvest for several more years.
All of those factors resulted in some areas of the country finding trees in short supply.
“It is getting harder for a lot of people to get trees,” said Paul Schatzman, owner of Country Flower Farms in Middlefield. He has been selling pre-cut trees at Country Flowers for the past 27 years, moving an average of nearly 600 per year. Despite the shortage, Schatzman was confident going into the 2019 season that he’d continue to sell those numbers.
“Fraser firs in particular are grown in a southern climate, particularly down in the Carolinas,” he said. “They had cut back production for a few years because there was a bit of a glut and now there’s a shortage of them.”
Schatzman estimated that the shortage could continue on for the next three to five years. However, the bulk of his sales are in balsam firs, which come from northern climates, including Canada. Schatzman says that trees from further north are better, as they have a longer “shelf life.” Colder climates force trees to go into dormancy.
Michael Grenier, who operates Uncle Bob’s Garden Center, has been selling trees for the past 24 years. Grenier didn’t foresee a drop in sales this season, either. Like Schatzman, Grenier also sources his trees from New England and Canada, and his stock was mainly balsams, as well.