Christmas tree shortage a lingering effect of Great Recession

Newaygo County

ASHLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Local farmers say Christmas trees will be in shorter supply this year as a nationwide shortage tied to the recession a decade ago continues.

At Church’s Tree Farm south of Grant, customers can see the stages of a Christmas tree’s life on display. Owner Robert VanBuskirk has trees ranging in size. The smallest were planted one year ago. Many of the largest treeswere planted about 10 years ago, which is the typical life cycle for full-grown trees.

“Ten, 12 years ago, we could not get all of the transplants that we needed to plant and that was due to a warehouse who furnishes the little plugs for the nursery, (they) couldn’t furnish the nurseries with enough. So here we are and we still can’t get all we want,” VanBuskirk said.

VanBuskirk said the farm, which has been in his family since 1946 and spans about 40 acres, provides thousands of trees to area families each year.

Church’s Tree Farm near Grant. (Nov. 18, 2021)

He said the trees that were meant to be fully grown and harvested this year needed to be planted about 10 years ago, but the recession and other factors slowed planting nationwide. He said the shortage became particularly noticeable last year. After a few local farms closed up shop, Church’s got a hoard of new customers and could only supply trees through the end of November.

“We had to stop last year early or we would not have a nice size tree for people this year. If we let them keep on cutting them and cutting them, next thing you know we’d have a field of 5-foot trees and then it takes years to recoup,” VanBuskirk said.

Some Christmas tree farmers have resorted to buying pre-cut trees from other farms to supplement the smaller quantity available locally.

Christmas trees are also expected to cost more this year because the cost to produce new trees has recently surged.

“We have to go up because all of our costs have gone up: fertilizer’s doubled, cost of our transplants have gone way up and we got to pass that on, too,” he said.

VanBuskirk said the shortage will likely continue into next year but he’s hopeful he’ll get more trees into living rooms this year.

“Have a good time and we’ll do the best we can to make sure you get what you want,” VanBuskirk said.

Church’s Tree Farm opens for the season Saturday. VanBuskirk said he’ll stay open as long as his supply allows.

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