With supply chain issues stemming from some of the largest tree farms in the U.S., growers in Maine caution that it might be more difficult to find a holiday tree this year.
There should be enough trees to go around, they say, but families may need to visit a second or third stop to find one. They may also expect a price jump on trees and wreaths due to increased costs of fuel (for transporting and cutting) and labor, according to Wells grower Ryan Liberty.
“Will it be the first farm that you go to? Maybe not. Will it be the farm that you’ve bought from the last 20 years? Maybe not,” Liberty said.
Along with supply chain disruptions and heightened energy costs, part of the issue is demand for real Christmas trees, which has soared since the start of the pandemic.
The Maine Christmas Tree Association is a nonprofit composed of members that own local farms — many of which are choose-and-cut farms, where customers select a tree and cut it on the spot. Those farms should have plenty to go around, according to Liberty, soon-to-be President of the nonprofit. But smaller groups that sell trees for charitable purposes may have less luck.
“There’s enough trees growing on the stump for Mainers that want to buy their tree that way,” Liberty said.
Sellers with established connections to tree suppliers, like Skillins Greenhouses in Falmouth, aren’t expecting issues fulfilling orders, but those without such connections might get beaten to the punch.
Joanne Bond, the association’s secretary and treasurer, said that they’re already out of planting stock, so groups who want to get a couple hundred trees to sell might not be able to.
Bond’s business, Bond Mountain Acres in West Newfield, is expecting another high volume season, just like the last few.
“We sold out last year, we’re sold out this year and we’ll probably sell out next year,” Bond said.
Businesses in the Association were “overwhelmed” over the last two years, Liberty said. Even with an impending price hike, he thinks that trend will continue in the upcoming season.
The Real Christmas Tree Board, a national promotion and research organization overseen by the USDA, reported in September that they expect the upcoming holiday season to come without surprises.
However, inflation and supply-chain issues have seeded concerns in the industry.
The Real Christmas Tree Board, a national promotion and research organization overseen by the federal government, “(c)onsistent with supply chain woes around the country — and around the world — since the start of the pandemic, the number one concern was supply chain shutdowns. The second place concern was, not surprisingly, impact of inflation on consumer spending,” according to a September press release.
Even still, Liberty said some farmers are split on whether or not they should increase prices, even with the higher costs they’re seeing. There’s an industry-wide effort to keep tree prices down so that people can see the value in purchasing a real tree over a fake one, according to Liberty.
“There’s so much to offer in terms of experience for our customers,” Liberty said. “And as our world becomes more and more artificial, I think families really hunger for something that’s real.”