If your Christmas tree was more expensive this year, you can likely blame it on the Great Recession.
When the economy crashed a decade ago, fewer people bought Christmas trees. As a result, farmers didn’t cut as many trees or plant as many new ones that year.
Because it takes Christmas trees nearly a decade to mature into 7- or 8-footers, we’re feeling the effects of those smaller crops this holiday season.
“It’s catching up, because obviously times are good right now,” said Joe Desimone, owner of Papa’s Tree Farm in Maple Valley.
Although Papa’s Tree Farm mainly sells its own trees grown onsite, Desimone does stock up on extra pre-cut trees. Those pre-cut trees saw an increase in price by about five percent this year, he said.
The farm sells about 500-600 trees each year, with its most common sizes being between 6 and 8 feet tall.
“If I sell more than that with my inventory I kind of hurt myself in years to come,” Desimone said.
The business of Christmas trees
Lora Wicks owns Snow Valley Christmas Tree Farm in Duvall with her husband. They began selling trees about seven years ago. She said the farm’s prices have increased slightly due to the rising price of seedlings, but the company hasn’t experienced any abnormal tree shortages this year.
The Duvall farm, which spans 100 acres — 30 of which are trees — is entirely “U-Cut,” meaning they don’t have to worry about outside supply.
“We have about 35,000 trees in the ground,” Wicks said.
And while the supply isn’t low, demand isn’t struggling either. Wicks said she sold one-third more trees during opening weekend this year than she did last year.
“If we haven’t doubled, we’ve grown easily by 25 to 30 percent every year,” she said.
Last year’s hot, dry summer did have an effect on the farm’s newer crop, Wicks said. Losing saplings is normal, but the dry period in 2016 was longer than usual.
“It was hard on our trees,” she said.
Because Christmas trees grow so slowly — on average about 1 foot per year, according to Desimone — it may take a few seasons for farmers to replenish their supply and for prices to return to normal.