Gathering the family to pick out a live Christmas tree is a cherished tradition during this time of year, but many folks in North Carolina may be gathering in the Target Christmas aisle to pick out a plastic tree instead. That’s because this season has given rise to an alarming shortage of Christmas trees.


The scarcity of seasonal foliage can be traced back to the mid-aughts recession almost a decade ago. Because fewer people at the time could afford to buy trees, less were cut down. When it came time to plant new ones, growers couldn’t afford the risk and fewer trees were planted. It takes about 10 years for a tree to grow to Yuletide-approved size (who knew?), so the lack of planting back then is affecting North Carolinians right now – both the shoppers and the tree growers.

Adding to the crunch is the fact that most people prefer real trees as opposed to artificial ones. According to the National Christmas Tree Association (yes, there is such a thing), last year saw shoppers buying over 27 million farm-grown trees while sales of artificial trees stopped at just under 19 million.

Nationwide, the owners of Christmas tree farms are doing their best to accommodate customers, and that includes tree growers here in North Carolina. The Tar Heel State is the second largest producer of Christmas trees in the country. Oregon topped the chart as #1, but a large part of the country looks to NC for its trees. (FYI: Michigan and Pennsylvania are next on the list of top growers.)

North Carolina’s locally grown economy has a big impact on the rest of the country. As the recession hit, it wasn’t just the tree growers who stopped planting. Since growers often buy from nurseries, the nurseries cut back on seedlings. The chain reaction meant that even if growers wanted to plant in the following years, the seedlings weren’t there. It has long reaching effects, with some estimating the tree shortage to be a new tradition, at least until 2025.

Oh Christmas Tree, oh Christmas tree, where can I find a Christmas tree?

Those who want that fresh pine smell in their home for Christmas may have to dole out a little more of that seasonal cash this year.

Local grower Kimberly Hodges Schoch of Charlotte’s Hodges Family Farm recently told the Charlotte Observer, “I don’t want to send anyone home empty-handed.” And as Dale Hawkins, co-owner of Sandy Hollar Farms in Leicester, informed Wilmington’s WWAY TV, “We’re kind of shorter on, you might call it, the medium size tree. Nine to 12 feet, we’re a little short on those.”

Hawkins did add that trees outside that range – both larger and smaller – are available. But you may have to branch out and think a little bit smaller this year when it comes to your Christmas tree.

Interviewed for USA Today, National Christmas Tree Association spokesman Doug Hundley stated, “We believe that everyone who wants to have a real tree will find one. They may not have the size they want or they might have to buy a different kind (because) we have a tight market.”

Although Christmas is in a few short weeks, shoppers should hold out hope that they still have time to find some sort of tree under which to stack the presents for family and friends alike. If the tree of your sugar-plummed dreams isn’t available, another one will be. While you’re out tree shopping, show the tree farmers and growers a little extra Christmas love by checking out their other wares, like hayrides, wreaths, or a cup of hot apple cider.

Even if it turns out your tree is of the Charlie Brown variety, there will be an extra glow around it knowing you are supporting NC growers.

Are you buying a live tree this year, or going artificial? Have you already found your perfect live tree? Let us know in the comments or share your tree shopping story on Facebook.

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