Growers overcome summer’s Pacific Northwest heat wave to keep Christmas real
HOWELL, Mich., Sept. 20, 2021 — Resilience, thy name is farmer. The twin calamities of COVID-19 and climate events have made a mess of moving products to market for nearly any supplier of nearly any kind of goods. But for farmers who grow real Christmas trees, a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest earlier this summer made some wonder if there would even be product to move. The answer after weeks of assessing, tending, and planning? YES. The industry expects plenty of trees to go around. Barring any new crises before harvest, this will not be the Christmas without a real Christmas tree.
Supply Chains and Sun Burns
The artificial Christmas tree industry has stated publicly that supply chain snags are forcing a higher price tag on its product as well as shipping delays.1 Some shipments are unlikely to arrive before the Christmas shopping season.2 But the good news for consumers is that 100% of natural Christmas trees sold in the U.S. are grown in North America and don’t have oceans to cross in the first place. That’s not to say this season started out looking like smooth sailing.
In late June, temperatures in the Pacific Northwest Christmas-tree growing regions reached record-breaking highs. Many trees suffered burns, some irrevocably. Best-guesses from major growers in the region were that between 10% and 20% of their supply was affected in some way by the heat wave. But those effects varied in intensity and from farm to farm, species to species, and even tree to tree.
While the heat damage in Oregon was unfortunately devastating for some small individual farmers, it was not debilitating for the industry as a whole.3 (Small operations, like many choose-and-cut businesses, tend to have all of their plantings in one area; they’re not decentralized like larger farms.) The industry is stronger than any one grower or any one region.
Farmers Did What Farmers Do
It turns out real Christmas trees are resilient, and the folks who grow them did what farmers have done for generations: Go to work. Solve problems. Adapt. After close evaluation and making tree-by-tree decisions, growers expect to supply the same overall number of real Christmas trees to the marketplace this season as they had planned before the crises hit.
Here are three reason why…
1. The heat was severe but limited in reach — The heat crisis was confined primarily to the Northern Willamette Valley in Oregon and parts of Southwest Washington. While this area is a major source of real Christmas trees, it’s not the only source. Real Christmas trees are grown in every state, with high production states concentrated in Oregon, North Carolina and Michigan. Many trees sold in the U.S. also come from Canada. With the exception of Oregon, none of these areas experienced heat threats to their trees, which will help stabilize the overall supply.
2. Some burns were cosmetic and easily manageable — Some trees suffered only minor burns at the extremities and the damage was successfully trimmed off, with no ill-effects to the rest of the tree, which can be sold this year.
3. Growers can borrow from future supply — Christmas trees take eight to 10 years to reach market maturity. One of the benefits of a planting cycle that long is that growers can “borrow” from trees originally intended for harvest in a future year to make up for short falls in the current year.
As for longer-term implications, the good news is that not all of the heat damage was permanent. While some trees were destroyed, many trees will recover in the next one to two years before they’re scheduled to be harvested.
What Consumers Can Expect
With just about eight weeks to go until the real Christmas tree shopping season hits, industry experts are confident there will be a real Christmas tree for everyone who wants one this year.
“It would take yet another major climate event to seriously derail harvest plans at this point,” said Bob Schaefer, Oregon-based Christmas tree producer. “We didn’t run out of trees last year. Or in 2019. Or the year before that. In fact, we never have, and we don’t intend to this year.”
Indeed, doom-and-gloom predictions have come and gone before in light of tight supplies and unexpected challenges, and each time they’ve been unfounded. But, like the farmers tending to this year’s harvest, consumers may need to adapt a bit:
- • Size and species variety may differ this year compared to years past. This will be a good season to try something new. For example, in recent years growers have seen increased demand for more “natural-looking” trees, which are more open and layered. That style of tree is expected to be more widely available this season than ever before.
- • Some individual retailers may experience tight supplies. If a particular location doesn’t have the type of tree you’re looking for, visit realchristmastreeboard.com and enter your zip code to find a real Christmas tree retailer near you.
- • With the artificial market hit hard by supply-chain disruption this year, and the real Christmas tree market returned to optimism, it’s an especially relevant season for newcomers to natural trees. Research commissioned by the Real Christmas Tree Board earlier this year revealed that 97% of those consumers who previously bought artificial Christmas trees and switched to a real Christmas tree during the pandemic said they enjoyed the experience, and nearly 90% wish they had started purchasing a real Christmas tree sooner.4
Know Your Sources
- • Established in 2015, the Real Christmas Tree Board (RCTP) is a national research and promotion program whose mission is to share the benefits of fresh Christmas trees with consumers through promotion and public relations, while engaging in research to better serve our customers and growers. The USDA provides oversight of the RCTB to ensure transparency and accuracy in its communications. This press release was developed and distributed by the RCTP.
- • The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) is the national trade association representing the Christmas tree industry. NCTA represents more than 700 active member farms, 29 state and regional associations, and more than 4,000 affiliated businesses that grow and sell Christmas trees or provide related supplies and services. The NCTA represents the Real Christmas Tree community with one voice to protect and advocate on the industry’s behalf.
- • The American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA) is a 501(c)(3) corporation run by CEO Thomas Harman.5 Harman is the founder of Balsam Hill, a seller of artificial Christmas trees.6 The majority of artificial Christmas trees are made overseas.7
4 TRUE Global Intelligence, the in-house research practice of FleishmanHillard, fielded a survey of 1,502 Americans adults ages 21 to 49 years. All survey respondents celebrate or observe Christmas and either decide or share in the decision of whether and what kind of Christmas tree to put up in their home each year or influence their home’s decisionmaker. The survey was fielded from May 7 to May 17, 2021. The survey has a margin of error of ±2.2% and higher for subgroups.
SOURCE Real Christmas Tree Board