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Christmas trees aplenty in Southwest Michigan; prices may be higher

Photo of Christmas tree loaded on a car
Leona Larson

With reports of Christmas tree shortages cropping up throughout the U.S., have the effects trickled down to tree stands in Southwest Michigan?

Rerouted artificial trees from China caught in broken supply chains, heatwave parched pine trees in the Pacific Northwest, and fewer Christmas tree farms in Michigan are some of the reasons why Christmas tree prices may be higher this year at some stands and “u-cut” farms, but Amy Start of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association said there isn’t a shortage of trees in Michigan.

“There is if you live out of Michigan,” said Start. “But because we live in a state with pretty much an abundance of Christmas trees, we’re doing just fine here. If you were in another part of the country, you might have a problem getting a real Christmas tree.”

Start says shortages reported in the news are in the wholesale market. She said Michigan supplies between 25 and 35 million Christmas trees to the wholesale market. 

“Anybody wanting a tree in Michigan is going to be able to find a tree,” Start said. “Michigan’s ranked third in the nation in tree productions, so there’s plenty of trees right here in Michigan. But what you do find happening is that some farms offset some of their inventory because maybe they didn’t plant as many trees as needed. So, they offset what they sell with precut trees from wholesale farms.”

It takes about 7 to 10 years to grow a Christmas tree. Fewer trees were planted a decade ago after the 2008 recession because demand for live trees was so low. The pandemic changed that, and the demand for live trees grew substantially. As a result, Start said many “u-cut” farms in Michigan had to rely on wholesalers to help make-up the difference by adding pre-cut trees to their inventory.

According to USDA statistics, the number of Christmas trees harvested in the U.S. declined by 27% between 2002 and 2017. The number of Michigan farms also decreased between 2000 and 2014, from 830 farms to 560 farms. With fewer farms, the states Christmas tree acreage was reduced by nearly half.

The wholesale shortage is one of the reasons why nationally, prices are about 5% to 10% higher this year. Start also said the economic mayhem of 2021 took a toll.

“A lot of that has to do with the fact that it’s so expensive to get help right now. And on top of that, the cost of doing business, the gas and things like that is so expensive.”

Photo of Christmas wreaths
Credit Leona Larson
Wreaths for sale on Black Friday at the Boy Scout Troop 243 Christmas tree stand at Woods Lake Park.

But not everyone raised prices this year.

“That’s a 9-foot Frazer,” Maxton Walters, 9, told a customer who’d rolled into the parking lot at Woods Lake Park just off Oakland Drive on Black Friday for the annual Boy Scout Christmas tree fundraiser.

Jason Walters is Maxton’s father and the scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 243. He’s been ordering trees for the troop for the last 7-years.

“Our farm raised the price the same amount, the small percentage that they do every single year,” Walters said. “We opted not to do a price increase this year because it’s a lot of extra work for us and we try to not raise prices but every 2-3 years.”

Troop 243’s Christmas tree stand is only open for two more weekends, closing on December 13 or whenever they run out of trees, whichever comes first.

“As far as I’m concerned there’s no tree shortage,” Walters said. “Typically, the Frazer fir has been hard for us to get even though it’s our best seller. They couldn’t get us any Black Hills spruce, which we were getting in lieu of the Frazer firs. So, they gave us more Frazer firs instead, which we prefer.”

Though Walters has more of them this year, Stark warns that popular trees like the Frazer fir, may sell out. She and Walters agree that if you have your heart set on a particular variety, shop early or be flexible.

“The upside in Michigan? We produce more different types of trees than any other state so there’s definitely some good options out there if you can’t find the Frazer that you had your heart set on,” Start said.