It might be a Christmas miracle if everyone who wants a real tree this year actually gets one — and that’s why at least one Treasure Valley business is encouraging customers to order and pay for them now.
“Expect to see the price of trees around town inflate due to the shortage,” North End Organic Nursery told customers in a Facebook message on Oct. 1. The trees, primarily grand firs, range in price from $39 to $215. A 5- to 6-foot tree is $59.
Trees are farmed, and they take from six to 10 years to grow to maturity, depending on the species and size. Douglas firs grow faster than the Noble fir and Nordmann fir.
Demand for Christmas trees took a nose dive during and after the 2008 recession — at a time when there was a glut of trees — and that double whammy forced some farms out of business. Those that survived cut back on plantings, in part because of the rising popularity of artificial trees.
So the Christmas tree shortage predicted for this season by Northwest growers and retailers has roots going back years. Other factors affecting the Pacific Northwest supply include drought, seedling shortages and wildfires.
“This year we’re getting 10 to 20 times the normal inquiries [from retail sellers],” said Casey Grogan, production manager of his family farm, Silver Bells Christmas Tree Farm in the western Oregon town of Silverton, near Salem. “Retailers are looking for trees.”
“It’s kind of a shame if they can’t find trees. They won’t be able to stock their lots,” Grogan said.
The Pacific Northwest is the largest Christmas tree-growing region in the country. In 2016, Oregon produced 5.2 million trees; Washington produced 1.5 million. Other top growing states: North Carolina (3.5 million), Michigan (2.3 million) and Pennsylvania (2.3 million).
More than half of the Christmas trees grown in the Northwest are Noble firs, with Douglas firs accounting for about one-third of trees.
Demand will drive up prices, and that’s good for growers — but they also fear that higher prices will drive more customers to fake trees. More than 80 percent of about 100 million Christmas trees displayed in U.S. households are artificial, according to the American Christmas Tree Association.
Weather and other conditions permitting, Zamzows expects to have trees Thanksgiving weekend. The stores will have grand, Noble and Nordmann firs.
“We expect them to sell fast, as they did last year, due to a lack of tree lots in the Treasure Valley,” Zamzows spokesman Art Gregory said. “We had to put down a cash deposit to be assured we’d have the trees we have ordered.”