How drought and inflation could affect your Christmas tree this holiday season

Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 5:23 PM EDT
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NORTH POWNAL, Vt. (WCAX) - The holiday season is quickly approaching. The pumpkins are already out at farm stands across the region. But when it comes to Christmas trees, dry conditions this summer have put a damper on things.

The steady rain is a welcome sight to farmers across the region whose crops have suffered because of a lack of water, and that includes tree farmers.

Three inches of rain in the last 36 hours is more than the Mt. Anthony Tree Farms in North Pownal saw all summer. Because of that, the young trees planted on the 16-acre plot did not fare as well as usual.

Farm owner Jim Horst is also the executive director of the New Hampshire-Vermont Christmas Tree Association.

“We have no rain this summer, and the trees that were planted in the spring were after some rain and they didn’t get it, so they struggled. I’ve lost probably 20 to 25% which doesn’t make me feel good,” Horst said.

Vermont and New Hampshire make up only a fraction of the trees grown across the country. North Carolina and the Northwest are the major players in the industry. However, nationally, supply is also down. It takes about eight years for a tree to be ready for market and eight years ago, prices dropped, so farmers planted fewer trees.

“There is going to be a tight supply of trees this year. I think people will be able to get a tree, I don’t think it is going to be a disaster but it is going to be a tight market,” Horst said.

But he says a positive for the industry is that more people are cutting their own rather than buying pre-cut trees at supermarkets or big box stores. He also says the dry weather has caused farmers to get creative with their planting cycles.

“I do some fall planting and I also do some spring planting right next to it and I think the fall-planted trees can survive a little bit better because they have had the advantage of some good fall rains,” Horst said.

As for the cost of trees this season, Horst says that will likely be impacted as well because of inflation. Higher fertilizer and fuel costs will impact the prices at this farm, which are likely to be about 10% higher than last year.