Market to Market

Pandemic leads to harried Christmas tree harvest

Dec 23, 2020  | Ep4619

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) — Trying to spruce up the pandemic season, families are producing quite a harvest at America's Christmas tree farms.

The Pine Patch Tree Farm in Hastings is one of many tree farms nationwide that are out of trees.

Normally, Pine Patch still has trees the first two weekends of December. But this year, families cleared out his supply on Thanksgiving weekend, "which is unheard of," said Dave Glass, who owns the tree farm with his wife, Nytha.

At Pine Patch, customers are able to cut their own trees or purchase pre-cut Fraser firs.

Both of those selections are gone. Glass sold his entire supply of 350 pre-cut trees, and this year's quota of 100 trees that customers cut themselves.

Glass has 800 trees growing on his farm. The trees take eight years to grow, so he limits each year's total to 100 to keep the supply consistent.

This year saw a greater demand and a quicker arrival by customers.

"People came earlier and the demand was way up," he told The Grand Island Independent.

Glass said he believes people were just wanting to "do something and get out of the house."

He said the demand for real Christmas trees is a national phenomenon this year. From talking to customers, he said he believes more people are "putting up a live tree just to try and make something special out of a bad year."

Business was strongest on Thanksgiving weekend.

At tree farms, family outings are evergreen. Many families make tree-buying a tradition.

This year, the news is bad for people who "waited until their normal time," Glass said. People who call now are "really disappointed."

Except for 10 trees that people picked out earlier, the Pine Patch is "totally wiped out," Glass said. "It's crazy this year."

Glass actually went a few trees over his quota last Sunday. But Pine Patch doesn't even have any Charlie Brown trees. "Don't send anybody my way," he said.

Glass has heard similar stories from other members of the Nebraska Christmas Tree Growers Association.

When customers want a tree that's still growing at Pine Patch, they can cut the tree themselves or have the job done by a tree "wrangler." That experience, though, will have to wait until next year.

Pre-cut trees are still on sale locally. But it's going to be hard for families who prefer to cut their own trees.

It's possible that some tree farms still have trees in the eastern part of the state, Glass said.

Glass brings in his pre-cut trees from Michigan and other northern states.

For the last two or three years, he hasn't been able to buy any additional inventory.

There's been a national shortage of those types of trees for five years.

Forest fires in Oregon this year have made the situation even worse.

Glass thinks pre-cut trees are going to be at premium for the foreseeable future. So expect the same problem next year.

There was already a shortage. "And now it's worse," he said.

Katalari Farms, located east of Loup City, still has Christmas trees. That farm, operated by Larry and Kathy Mostek, was unavailable for comment.

But Santa Claus and reindeer appeared at the business Saturday.

A message on the farm's answering machine notes that the business will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Katalari Farms is closed Monday and Tuesday, but will reopen from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.

The final day of the holiday season will be Saturday, Dec. 19, when the hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Hardin's Tree Farm in Kearney did not open this year.

The company's answering machine states, "It is with great disappointment that I say we will not be open for the 2020 Christmas season. We were unable to secure enough trees for sales this year, due to shortages in the industry. We appreciate your business and hope you will consider us next year."


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