Christmas tree crisis — not

Local farms have plenty of trees, and people are buying them earlier than usual

At Moody Tree Farm in Gabriels, Matt (last name not given) gets ready for a big weekend. “We can't keep up with the demand,” he said. (Enterprise photo — Glynis Hart)

A nationwide shortage may be making Christmas tree shoppers nervous, but in New York the supply is assured.

A recent headline in the Tampa Bay Times read, “Nationwide Christmas tree shortage has experts warning: buy early,” while the Wall Street Journal declared, “No Tannenbaum! There’s a Christmas tree shortage.”

Pundits blame the shortage on the recession of 2008, when Christmas tree farmers sold fewer trees and therefore planted fewer trees to replace them. On average, it takes 11 to 12 years to grow a good size Christmas tree.

“There’s been a lot of national press responding to it, especially in the New York Times,” said Mary Jeanne Packer, executive director of the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York.

“Once a story like that runs, everybody wants to make sure they’ve got their tree,” said Packer. “But there’s no shortage of trees here in New York.”

Moody Tree Farm in Gabriels (Enterprise photo — Glynis Hart)

Local growers have noticed more people buying trees, and buying them earlier.

“It’s doubled here, as far as participation,” said Don Hamm. Hamm’s Vermontville farm on Cold Brook Road has around 20,000 Christmas trees in the ground, and he expects to sell five or six hundred this season.

“We used to have five or six people come after Thanksgiving. Now we have 20 to 30,” he said.

Moody’s Tree Farm on Route 86 in Gabriels can’t keep up with the demand, according to a worker there who gave his name as Matt. On Friday morning, he was arranging trees for sale in the yard next to the gift shop.

“We started selling them three weeks ago,” Matt said.

While states such as Oregon lost a lot of Christmas tree farms in the recession, New York’s farmers held steady. The state has about 1,000 Christmas tree farms, selling mostly to individual buyers.

“I used to ship down to New York City,” said Hamm. “It got to where they were buying from Canada and it wasn’t worth it.” Hamm said there are farms in Canada with 5 million trees, so large that trees are lifted out by helicopters.

Generally, the biggest weekends for selling Christmas trees are the Thanksgiving weekend, and the first weekend in December. Growers say a tree will keep its needles if it’s cut after a heavy frost, so it should be good for a month indoors.

“Cut an inch off the bottom if the tree’s not fresh,” said Hamm, “because it will pitch over, and prevent the tree from taking water. The first two days it’ll take 2 to 3 quarts of water. They need a lot of water to start with.”

Nice weather encourages Christmas tree shoppers, too.

“It’s so much easier to choose it and cut it when the tree’s not covered in a foot of snow,” said Packer. “This weekend is shaping up to be one of the biggest weekends ever.”

Hamm said some people come out and choose their tree, tag it, and come back to cut it later. “A lot of people have called,” said Hamm.

“You don’t have to cut your own, if you want to come out and pick it,” said Hamm. “There are guys to help you on the farm.

“We have a good time,” he said. “And the view is spectacular.”