Mehrl Mayne, owner of Mayne’s Trees in Buckeystown, said that he has never had a busier day in his career than this Friday. The farm was swarmed with families picking out Christmas trees.
Mayne believes it’s because Thanksgiving was so late this year, and also because of the weather forecast for Sunday.
“A lot of people I talked to said they were going to come Sunday but they came today because of what the forecast said,” Mayne said.
Sure enough, the business was booming again on Saturday. Gaver Farm in Mount Airy also had a busy day on Saturday, with families filing in all morning and afternoon.
Laura House, one of the owners of Gaver Farm, said that they have seen an increased demand in recent years. That trend holds true nationwide, as 5 million more trees were sold last year than in 2017 — a 15 percent increase — according to the National Christmas Tree Association.
Mayne said that he believes some of the local increase in demand is due to other Christmas tree farms recently going out of business. He said that he has seen about six close up shop in the last five years.
Christmas tree growers across the country are reporting shortages of Christmas trees, but House and Mayne aren’t worried. Other growers have cited weather and the 2008 recession as reasons that there could be fewer trees this year.
Most Christmas trees take between 8 and 12 years to grow to the average 8-foot height, meaning that growers have to plan their future crops well ahead of time. Some trees being sold now were planted during the recession.
“What we are selling this year we had to plan for 10 years ago, so you know, what we’re planning to plant in 2020, we have to think what will people want in 2030?” House said.
Both Christmas tree farms get their saplings from nurseries. Mayne said that some of his nurseries are not planting as many trees as they used to.
The average price of Christmas trees has also increased. Last year the average price was $78, up from $75 in 2016, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.
Mayne’s trees start at about $60, while Gaver Farm’s start at about $65. Prices depend on the type and height of the tree. Some trees, like Frasier firs and bluespurces, take longer to grow than others.
Mayne had to increase his prices on all of his trees this year because the grower he gets his pre-cut trees from raised his prices by $5. Because Mayne can’t charge a different price for his trees than he can his pre-cut trees, because he says you can’t tell a difference, he raised his prices across the board.
He’s had to raise his prices the last couple of years becaue all of his input costs have gone up, including labor, fertilizer and equipment. Many pieces of equipment he has start at $18,000 for base models.
“You got to look at the whole picture, not just at what I’m doing today,” Mayne said.
House said that Gaver Farm tries their best to keep with the industry standard price of trees.
Regardless of the increasing price, shoppers come in flocks, often with a specific tree already in mind.
Joanne Valeri and Ryan Valeri said they always pick a Frasier fir, because they’re sturdy and great for hanging ornaments on. They come out to Gaver Farm every year to cut down their own tree, a tradition from Joanne’s childhood.
Hanna and Chase Chandler put up three different trees in their house for the holidays — two fake and one real. They like to decorate each one differently. The fake trees are easy since they require no maintenance and can be used several years in a row, but it’s important to the Chandlers to come out and get a real tree: a Frasier fir if they can get one.
“It smells really nice,” Hanna Chandler said.
Andrew and Christina Leishman came out with the rest of their family to get a tree at Gaver Farm on Saturday. They used to get a tree from a lot every year, but after having the experience of cutting their own down last year, the family has made a point to do it again.
“Going out and getting a tree as a family, you can make a day of it,” Christina Leishman said.
It’s the experience that’s important.
“It really gets you into the Christmas spirit,” Andrew Leishman said.
For House, that’s what’s most important, too: the tradition.
“We get to know the families,” House said. “And it’s a huge part of their family tradition and for me, I really love being part of that tradition and seeing all the families come out and do something that is so centered on family.”