Growers grateful for higher Christmas tree prices
Published 10:30 am Friday, November 28, 2014
DES MOINES, Iowa — Christmas trees likely will cost a little more this year, and growers like John Tillman say it’s about time.
Six years of decreased demand and low prices put many growers out of business. Those who withstood the downturn are relieved they survived.
“I’m awful proud to still be in the Christmas tree business,” said Tillman, who ships up to 20,000 trees each fall from nine fields south of Olympia, Washington. “We lost a lot of farmers who didn’t make it through.”
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Prices vary according to the variety of tree, but growers this year will see about $20 per tree, $2 more than the last several years, according to Bryan Ostlund, executive director of the Salem, Oregon-based Pacific Northwest Tree Association. Prices will likely rise as the holidays near and supply decreases.
Consumers looking to deck their home could pay a little more than last year, but costs vary widely depending on factors such as transportation, tree-lot rental space and big-box retailers’ demand that prices remain stable.
For example, a 6-foot Douglas fir in Oregon, which grows about one-third of the nation’s Christmas trees, could sell for $25 while a similar tree hauled to Southern California might go for $80.
Tara Deering-Hansen, a spokeswoman for Midwestern supermarket chain Hy-Vee, said wholesale tree prices have climbed slightly but prices are set at each store and customers might not see any increase.
Heavy snow last week slowed the shipment of trees from Michigan, which ranks third in production and supplies much of the Midwest and parts of the South. In some loading yards, stacks of trees awaiting shipment were covered with up to 2 feet of snow.
“Getting the snow off was more work than loading the trees,” said Dan Wahmhoff, co-owner of a nursery in southwestern Michigan. “It was definitely a challenge — wind and snow and cold, trucks were getting stuck — but we made it through.”