Fresh Christmas trees may be harder to find this year

Fraser firs, the “Cadillac of Christmas trees” are in short supply across the nation.

They are still available in Wichita, but may be a little harder to get and may cost you a little more.

The Fraser firs are those popular blue-green trees with the soft, short needles

Celia Goering, president of the Kansas Christmas Tree Growers Association, said some local growers, who also buy trees to sell, didn’t get exactly what they ordered.

“But the supplier substituted something else that was satisfactory,” said Goering, who also is part owner of the Pine Lake Christmas Tree Farm in Derby and a board member of the National Christmas Tree Association.

In most cases Balsam firs were substituted.

For the past 15 years, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Churchat 124 N. Roosevelt has run a charitable Christmas tree sale that starts the Friday after Thanksgiving.

All will go on as usual this year, says lead Christmas tree volunteer Mark Vanderpool with the church Men’s Club, which oversees the sales.

“We didn’t have any issue,” Vanderpool said. “We ordered our (Fraser Fir) trees out of Michigan and there was no issue with the shortage. We got all we ordered and the prices stayed about the same. We aren’t increasing our prices. We haven’t increased our prices for the past five or six years even though our prices have increased.”

Fewer trees

In other parts of the nation, such as in North Carolina where the Fraser fir is the official state Christmas tree, people are being advised that if they want real trees, get them sooner than later.

The shortage is the result of the recession that began nearly a decade ago, and it’s affecting tree farms nationwide. When the economy folded in 2008, demand for real Christmas trees was low, so farmers didn’t plant as many.

Now, there are fewer trees to go around, and more people are looking to buy real trees.

The Hodges Family Farm by Charlotte, North Carolina is only receiving half the trees they sold last Christmas, and Kimberly Hodges Schoch fears the farm might run out before December.

“I don’t want to send anyone home empty-handed,” she said.

North Carolina is a major grower and exporter of Christmas trees, with the state Christmas Tree Association reporting about 1,300 growers in the state. Only Oregon exports more trees each year, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

Tree prices are expected to increase because of the shortage, a cost that had already been trending up in recent years, said Doug Hundley, seasonal spokesperson for the association.

“Anytime you have a supply demand balance that changes in favor of the demand, people can get more (money) for them,” Hundley said.

He is hopeful that customers who want a real tree will still be able to buy one instead of going to artificial trees.

“Going out as a family and getting a real tree at a choose-and-cut or a garden center is part of building family tradition,” he said. “There’s nothing like smelling a real tree in the house.”

Tree growers and sellers urge families to start looking for trees as soon as possible, by getting in contact with their favorite lots or farms.

Future state shortage

Kansas may fare well this year, but there could be a possible shortage of Kansas-grown trees in the next four to six years, says Eldon Clawson, past president of the Kansas Christmas Tree Growers Association. His tree farm is Country Christmas Trees in Wakarusa.

The downturn in the economy in 2008 hit tree growers nationally. In Kansas, it was the drought in 2011 that hit the growers here the hardest, Clawson said.

It takes trees about six to 10 years to grow.

“We have had a couple of nice years the past couple of years,” Clawson said. “We planted in Kansas in 2011 but the drought got them. The shortage won’t show up in Kansas for another four to six years.”