A healthy selection of Christmas trees will be available this season but future holidays may be a little grimmer as the recent drought destroyed or weakened many young trees planted this year.
“The mature trees, the trees that are being cut this year for sale did quite well,” said John Lebeaux, the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. “The farmers are going to have to take measures in the future because seedlings that were planted this spring, which would grow and be sold, did come in very poorly.”
Robert Peura, the owner of the Deer Run Tree Farm in Princeton, said he will have to plant more trees in the spring to make up for the lost seedlings.
“The trees are doing really well,” Peura said. “The drought was a problem with the transplants, the ones I planted in the spring. I would say 100 percent of those did not make it.”
Governor Charlie Baker is encouraging residents to purchase trees from local farms. Lebeaux said the approximately 400 farms in Massachusetts contribute about $1.4 million to the Commonwealth’s economy. And, he said, farmers will have to look to this year’s sales to help them through the next seasons.
“They need their annual sales to support their long-term activities,” Lebeaux said. “That will be easily achieved this year, but the investment they made in the years down the road didn’t pan out, largely due to the drought.”
Bob Shrader, the owner of Chestnut Mountain Tree Farm in Hatfield, said the older trees had grown enough to withstand the effects of the drought.
“Once a tree is established, it puts its roots down,” Shrader said. “They’re more susceptible when they’re young, but the transplants haven’t put their roots down yet.”
But some farmers said the growth of their older more mature trees was stunted by the dry conditions this year.
At Charlton’s Abbott Farm, owner Curtis Abbott closed this year when the trees he had been counting on for Christmas were not ready to be harvested, he said.
“We were a little low on stock to begin with,” Abbott said. “The existing trees that I was hoping would be ready to sell didn’t grow over the summer because of the drought.”
Abbott said that in 23 years of selling Christmas trees, the farm has closed only twice. He hopes to be able to sell the trees next year after they have more time to grow.