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Extreme Weather Affects New England Christmas Tree Supply

Weir Tree Farms in New Hampshire was one of many Christmas tree farms affected by extreme weather this year. (Weir Tree Farms)
Weir Tree Farms in New Hampshire was one of many Christmas tree farms affected by extreme weather this year. (Weir Tree Farms)
December 21, 2018

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Shopping for a Christmas tree this year, you might have noticed they cost a little more in New England, and tree growers say this year's wild weather and climate change played a role.

Some New Hampshire and Vermont tree farms weren't able to harvest their trees because of snow, rain, and mud during the fall, which affected the supply.

Jim Horst, executive director of the New Hampshire and Vermont Christmas Tree Association, says the wide range of weather conditions in 2018 has made it difficult. And he's seeing more extreme weather within a year than he used to.

"When you look at things on the average, you may not see much of a difference, in terms of historical averages,” says Horst. “But what we are seeing is significant variations within the year – from very dry conditions, to very wet conditions, to extreme snow at unusual times of the year. And that has an impact on us."

Beyond New England, he says a late spring frost hurt tree growth in Nova Scotia, so that area exported fewer trees to the Northeast.

Also, there are fewer Christmas trees nationally because of a lack of growers a decade ago, due to the recession. Since it takes eight to ten years for Christmas trees to mature, Horst says it's having an impact now.

In New Hampshire and Vermont, Horst saw wholesale prices for Christmas trees increase a couple dollars per tree this year. Despite weather and other factors, he says overall in the region, tree prices haven't risen a lot in the last few years.

"My prices probably have gone up 10 to 15 percent in the last five years,” says Horst. “So, we're not looking at astronomical increases."

Nationally, it's a different story. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, the average price for a tree in 2015 was $51. Last year, it was $75.

And this year, it'll likely be more than that. It might be worth considering growing your own.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - NH