Thanks to climate change, you will have to dig much deeper in your pocket to buy a real Christmas tree this year. Christmas tree prices have gone up by 10-15% since last year, according to Jeri Seifert, president of the California Christmas Tree Association. The trouble started due to the wildfires and heatwaves earlier this year.
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Christmas tree farmers in Oregon and California took the hardest hit from the disasters. With Oregon farmers being the largest producer of Christmas trees in the U.S., their predicament has affected the entire country. Usually, the state produces about 40% of Christmas trees bought in the U.S. However, their production this year is much lower due to the heat and fires.
“I had 30% mortality, but every single seedling is damaged without question,” said Tom Norby, a Christmas tree farmer in Oregon. Norby, who is also the president of the Oregon Christmas Tree Growers Association, says that farmers across the state have experienced similar issues. “There are literally fields with hundreds of acres of dead seedlings. Just 100% mortality across the entire field. If you produce a million trees a year, you don’t have time to deal with that,” Norby added.
In Oregon, the main killer for the trees was the June heatwave. According to Norby, the trees were largely spared from wildfires, but the heatwave killed most of the young seedlings.
“The heat dome came at the absolute worst time. It came when those new seedlings were trying to take root on that fresh soil and push out new shoots, and they just couldn’t compete with that heat,” said Norby.
The resulting tree scarcity is driving up this year’s Christmas tree prices. Despite this, California farmers are optimistic to get back on track next year. For Oregon farmers, the supply might be affected for the next decade. Christmas trees take over six years to mature to a harvesting height. If a farm is destroyed, it takes a lot of time to repair the damage. If the trees are exposed to too much heat and not enough moisture, they may suffer sunburns that destroy the tree entirely.
“When you lose a plantation, there’s a huge process that goes into regrowing those trees, so it takes many years to recoup,” says Seifert.
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