December 14, 2013

Maine tree growers busy with shortened season

With Thanksgiving coming late this year, growers are dealing with a deluge of demand for Christmas trees.

The Associated Press

Maine Christmas tree growers are scrambling to meet demand during a compressed holiday season.

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A Fraser fir grown in Aroostook County sells for $75 in Freeport, Maine. Maine Christmas tree growers are scrambling to meet demand during a compressed holiday season.

The Associated Press

A late Thanksgiving made the holiday season shorter than usual, and growers say that means they’re getting a deluge of demand in a short period of time.

At Richards Christmas Tree Farm in Mapleton, there has been no rest since the first trees were cut last month for wholesale orders, said Gaye Richards, who owns the 250-acre farm with her husband. Now she has shifted to retail sales. Then there are mail-order sales and restocking wholesalers.

Richards said trees have been selling faster and earlier this year, likely because people are feeling rushed because of the shorter season.

“There’s also a lot of snow in the area, and that always encourages people to come out,” she said.

Nationally, live Christmas trees are a $1 billion business, with the number sold each year running from 25 million to 30 million since 2006, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

Rick Dungey, a spokesman for the national group, said there should be plenty of supply to meet demand at big-box stores, smaller retail lots and choose-and-cut operations.

Growers are expanding their offerings with additional varieties of trees and a mix of big and shorter trees that can work in large houses or small apartments, Dungey said.

“Our industry is trying to put more product out there with more variety and choices and options for people who wouldn’t ordinarily buy a tree,” he said.

Jim Corliss, a Christmas tree grower in Newburgh, Maine, agrees that the season seems to be going well. Demand seems to be good, and prices are holding up.

“It feels like it’s going extremely well. I don’t know how the numbers are going to end up, but I’m a natural optimist,” Corliss said.

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