In the aftermath of unpredictable weather, labour issues and increased costs to farming, Canadian Christmas tree farmers are still optimistic about the holiday season despite the challenges.
Last year, reports of a Christmas tree shortage were enough to bring out the scrooge in anyone, and while there are continued supply shortages, Canadian farmers are finding ways to ensure no family is left without a tree this season.
According to Statistics Canada, between 2011 and 2021, nearly 20,000 acres of Christmas tree farms have been lost and the total number of farms reported have decreased from 2,381 to 1,364. Shirley Brennan, the executive director of the Canadian Christmas Trees Association, says these acres lost attribute to major losses from extreme weather events like droughts seen in provinces like Ontario or lack of workers because of no retirement or succession planning on the farms.
“Ten years, which is the growing season for a Christmas tree, what you lose in that 10 year-span, 20,000 acres, that contributes to 30 million trees. So will there be fewer trees? Yes. Does that mean that somebody is going to go without a tree? No it doesn’t,” Brennan told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Nov. 1.
Christmas tree farms say Canadians can expect an increase in prices this season as farmers have seen their costs go up for fertilizer, insurance and fuel for tractors. While it remains unclear how much prices could rise for consumers, Brennan says that will vary depending on the farm.
Kim Frocklage, owner and operator of Santa’s Forest in Victoria, B.C, says tree pricing varies each year depending on the size and species but she estimates price increases can reach anywhere between 10 and 15 per cent. The Noble Fir tree, which is the most popular option on her farm, ranges from $60-$90 depending on the size.
Additionally, she says she’s facing supply issues with accessories like tree stands, which have not only increased in price but have been on backorder for months. While her farm is also still reeling from the intense weather events seen on the West Coast from droughts and fires that claimed heaps of trees, she’s hopeful the weather conditions will shift to work in favour of the trees once again.
“It’s a cyclical thing, so there’s probably going to be lots of trees coming back on the market and in another five or six years, but it’s going to take some time for it to kind of come out and rebound again,” she told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Nov. 7.
Pam Martin, owner of Cedar Hills Christmas Tree farm in Pakenham, Ont., says increased costs to fuel and insurance are the main factors that will contribute to slightly higher prices on her farm. The most sought after tree on her farm, the Fraser Fir, roughly costs $89 before tax.
“There will likely be a moderate price increase with everyone having noticed there’s been a price increase in fuel, even more so in dyed diesel, which is what we use to operate all of our tractors on the farm,” she told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Nov. 7.
“I think everyone is also experiencing an insurance premium increase this year so there will be a small price increase to offset some of those factors.”
WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN SHOPPING
Although the weather challenges and rising costs have been tough on Canadian farmers, Brennan says customers are already adapting their tree shopping habits and looking into all their options to offset any issues with trees in stock.
“People are now starting to look outside of the box. We get more and more requests for tabletop trees, different sizes and different species, so we’re seeing more of that trend changing,” Brennan said.
Brennan also suggests checking what species of trees local farms carry because not every farm will carry all of the most popular species like fraser fir, spruce or pine. Brennan says the soil conditions on some farms may not be able to sustain certain species so it’s important to check first with the farm to find either the specific species or an alternative.
Above all else, Brennan says Canadians should enjoy all the moments that come with getting a tree after all the labour-intensive farming.
“Christmas tree farming is a labour of love, so when you go to a farm, enjoy it. Enjoy what they have to offer, whether it’s different activities or it’s just spending time enjoying the outdoors with your family because that’s what it’s there for,” she said.
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