Picking out a Christmas tree is a holiday tradition that many families look forward to. However, due to increased demand and other factors, customers may notice a bump in prices at the tree lot this season.

Randy and his wife Cheryl Thiele are Chanhassen residents and owners of Hinkemeyer Tree Farm, based in Rice, Minnesota. The family farm, marking its 50th year, provides trees to local lots operated by the Chanhassen Lions Club and Boy Scout Troop 174.

Due to the pandemic, people are at home more and spending time with family, so they want to purchase and decorate a Christmas tree, said Randy Thiele. However, this increased demand, along with supply constraints, have put the industry in a tough position.

TREE SHORTAGE

Christmas trees take a long time to grow. The tree industry was forecasting demand in 2021 about 10 years ago, Thiele said. What people don’t consider about the tree industry versus manufacturing is that once manufacturers get the raw material, they can produce the product, Thiele said. With trees, it takes time, he added.

One of the challenges that lead to the recent supply constraint is smaller growers who left the business. Bigger tree growers started planting more trees, but not enough to make up the difference, Thiele said.

“We’re starting to see some of the ramifications now … 10 years later,” Thiele said.

Another challenge is shipping. The cost to deliver trees to retailers has increased 50-60%, Thiele estimated.

“There’s just a confluence of a lot of things that are happening all at the same time, which is causing some supply challenges,” Thiele said.

Hinkemeyer Tree Farm sold out of its wholesale trees in early February. Historically, buyers wouldn’t have to get their orders in until around Sept. 15, Thiele said. However now, they may already be sold out by early February.

DROUGHT IMPACT

On top of current supply limitations, tree farmers had trouble growing trees because of the recent drought. Thiele estimates the farm lost between 60-70% of the trees they planted in Minnesota this year to the drought.

Hinkemeyer Tree Farms plants trees in Michigan, North Carolina and Rice, Minnesota. Planting in different states gives the farm an opportunity to grow different tree varieties.

In Michigan, the farm can plant a wide range of trees types. The soil and water conditions in North Carolina are ideal to grow Fraser fir trees. In Minnesota, the farm plants Scotch pine, Norway pine and Balsam fir. The farm does grow Fraser fir in Minnesota but it takes three to four years longer than it would in North Carolina.

The concerns over supply and demand for Christmas trees doesn’t seem to be going away. Thiele estimates it will continue until 2023. Prices this year went up around 15-20% and he expects prices will continue to rise next year.

The price is particularly steep for trees 9 feet or taller, Thiele said. However, if customers are looking for shorter trees, there is a lot of variety and prices are reasonable, he said.

According to Thiele, tree growers are doing their best to produce great products and are even trying to produce faster growing trees at a lower cost. Growers aim to get everyone a Christmas tree that wants one, at a fair price, he said.

“We’re doing our best to make everybody’s Christmas as wonderful as we can by providing a great quality tree,” Thiele said.

SELLERS PERSPECTIVE

Terry Cohen is the manager at The Garden By The Woods, 78 W. 78th St., Chanhassen. The garden center typically purchases around 500 Christmas trees, but bought half as many this year.

Owner Laura Wood estimates that the garden center is selling trees overall for about 8.6% more than last year.

The Garden By The Woods typically gets its trees from Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The center wasn’t able to purchase smaller Fraser fir trees. Instead, it is selling Canaan firs, which are a cross between a Fraser fir and a Balsam fir.

The center is also offering living potted Christmas trees, which are smaller spruce, about 2.5 feet tall. The trees can be kept in the house for seven to 10 days. Afterward, the tree must go into cold storage and can be planted in the spring, Cohen said.

The Mustard Seed Landscaping and Garden Center, 10000 Great Plains Blvd., Chanhassen, purchased around 20-50 more trees this year than previous years, according to General Manager Kelly Lorenz.

According to Lorenz, the garden center was able to get the same variety of Christmas trees as it has in the past because they placed their order early in the year.

Lorenz has heard from customers that they are aware of the Christmas tree shortage and some customers are coming to buy their trees earlier than usual in fear that lots will run out. Due to the talk about shortages, Lorenz expected that they would have sold more trees than usual by now. However, they’ve sold around the same number as last year so far.

Lorenz acknowledged that tree prices went up and thinks the biggest factor is due to freight costs. Supply and demand is really tight, she said.

The garden center has already sold out of the popular size of spruce tips, which people can use to decorate pots and planters. Spruce tips are difficult to find across the board from what she’s heard, Lorenz said.

Lydia Christianson is a digital reporter for Southwest News Media. She graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Minnesota. When not reporting, she enjoys reading in coffee shops, listening to podcasts, and checking out new restaurants.

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