For the first time in years, it’s a wonderful time to grow Christmas trees.
Christmas tree growers say 2019 has been the industry’s best year in decades — in part because of a number of bad years, says Chal Landgren, a Christmas tree specialist at Oregon State University.
Landgren grows trees on a five-acre farm north of Portland, Oregon, and says seedlings planted in 2019 have seen good rates of survival. That wasn’t the case from 2015 to 2018, when dry, hot summers led growers to plan for losses.
“Some of them lost their entire crop in those years,” he says. “And it was hard to get seedlings because people were trying to back up two or three years worth of seedling loss.”
The industry’s good year comes alongside an increase in demand: A study by the National Christmas Tree Association found a 20% spike in real Christmas tree purchases during 2018. A spokesperson told CNN millennials are driving the influx in sales.
But Landgren predicts the industry will see another decline in production in about six years because of that aforementioned seedling loss.
In 2006, 800 licensed Christmas tree farmers grew almost 7 million trees, he says. Now, following a period of oversupply, he estimates about 366 growers produced 4.5 million trees.
“It’s been a hard time for the growers that were kind of forced out of the business because of oversupply,” he says. “But now that we’re in a position of a tighter supply, prices are up and growers are very, very pleased with the way this year’s been working out.”
On top of dry summers, climate has also impacted the industry in Missouri, where floods wiped out farmers’ entire crops this year.
Landgren says consumers looking to cut down their own tree should consider driving to the closest possible farm to minimize their carbon footprint.
When it comes to the question of real or plastic, he says he’s biased toward real Christmas trees.
An industry study found people keep artificial trees for at least five years and using the same tree for multiple years generates fewer environmental impacts than buying real trees.
But Landgren still thinks buying a real tree is better for the environment and the economy.
“The real tree is totally recyclable,” he says. “That also is a viable, non-irrigated crop that sustains rural economies in areas where there is not a lot of economic activity.”
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.