It’s going to be all hands on deck Friday at Nutkin Knoll Farm when the gates open for the start of the Christmas tree season in Maine.
Owner Nancy Price is busy getting ready for the expected rush of shoppers and said she is confident there will be enough trees to meet the demand this season at her cut-your-own tree farm.
That’s the outlook statewide, according to Jim Corliss, spokesperson for the Maine Christmas Tree Association. But he also said an economic downturn more than a decade ago is only now limiting the overall supply in Maine. It means that, while anyone who wants a fresh tree this year should be able to find one, you may not find it at the first tree farm you visit.
“The supply of Christmas trees is going to be a bit tight,” Corliss said. “Back in 2008 and 2009 when the recession hit, many [Christmas tree] growers went out of business and others did not plant.”
Since it takes at least 10 years for a Christmas tree to mature, that scaling back years ago means fewer trees reaching a sellable age now.
“We don’t have as many as we’d like to have,” Corliss said.
Corliss and his wife used to operate Piper Mountain Christmas Tree Farm in Newburgh. They retired and sold it several years ago. New owner Jesse Jimerson said his inventory is a bit low, but the trees he does have are in good shape.
“Growing trees you need a crystal ball to look out 10 years in the future,” Jimerson said. “Not as many trees were planted 10 or so years ago and we are feeling it now.”
Over at Kings Mountain Christmas Trees in Orrington, owner Nino Chiapponi is confident he has a relatively good supply of trees heading into the season.
“For years we closed our fields to customers early so we could grow our inventory up,” Chiapponi said. “Saying ‘no’ to people was painful, and it has taken years of planning to get our inventory up.”
Still, he says people should not wait until the last minute to get their trees.
“There are generally never enough trees to go around,” Chiapponi said. “It’s always better to get here sooner rather than later.”
Which is why Corliss believes people may have to look a bit harder for their holiday tree this year. Part of that may also be because the Maine Christmas tree industry is a victim of its own success.
“I believe more people are looking for real trees now,” Corliss said. “I really hope the age of plastic trees has passed us by.”
The Maine Christmas Tree Association is also now seeing positive effects of a media campaign promoting natural trees, Corliss said. The campaign is funded through a 15 cent per tree sold assessment on growers.
The association also maintains a list of farms selling Christmas trees on its website.
Back at Nutkin Knoll Farm, Price said the Friday after Thanksgiving is her biggest day of the year, and she is looking forward to another busy weekend.
“Overall our trees look beautiful and fresh and very healthy,” she said. “We are ready to send people out with a saw to cut their own, or we can have someone help them.”
Price believes she has the best job in the world. She describes selling Christmass trees as a joyful business.
“People don’t go looking for a tree to cut down if they are not in a cheerful mood,” Price said. “They come here happy, and they leave happy.”