If you want a real tree this Christmas, get it early, here’s why they may not last

If you want a real tree this Christmas, get it early, here’s why they may not last

CHARLOTTE, NC (Lavendrick Smith/The Charlotte Observer) - For Kimberly Hodges Schoch, there's no time on her family's northeast Charlotte farm that's quite like Christmas.

After Thanksgiving, families roam the Hodges Family Farm looking for the perfect Fraser fir, North Carolina's official state Christmas tree.

This year, a Christmas tree shortage might keep some families from having that experience.

It's a result of the recession that began nearly a decade ago, and it's affecting tree farms nationwide. When the economy folded in 2008, demand for real Christmas trees was low, so farmers didn't plant as many.

Now those trees are fully grown, but there are fewer of them to go around, and there are more people looking to buy real trees.

The Hodges Family Farm is only receiving half the trees they sold last Christmas, and Schoch fears the farm might run out before December.

"I don't want to send anyone home empty-handed," she said.

North Carolina is a major grower and exporter of Christmas trees, with the state Christmas Tree Association reporting about 1,300 growers in the state. Only Oregon exports more trees each year, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

Tree prices are expected to increase because of the shortage, a cost that had already been trending up in recent years, said Doug Hundley, seasonal spokesperson for the association.

"Anytime you have a supply demand balance that changes in favor of the demand, people can get more (money) for them," Hundley said.

He is hopeful customers who want a real tree will still be able to buy one instead of going to artificial trees.

"Going out as a family and getting a real tree at a choose-and-cut or a garden center is part of building family tradition," he said. "There's nothing like smelling a real tree in the house."

Tree growers and sellers urge families to start looking for trees as soon as possible, by getting in contact with their favorite lots or farms.

At Mr. Jack's Tree Farm in Charlotte, owner Casey Bolen said he will probably run out of trees a few weeks after Thanksgiving.

However, many in the industry are optimistic there will be more trees in future years.

"It's being fixed as we speak," Bolen said. "We understand the demand and the buyers are back, so that means more planting and more trees for next year."

A report from the GWD Forestry predicts the shortage could last until 2025, citing droughts and wildfires in major growing states as an additional factor.

In the meantime, people in the industry want customers to be patient this season.

"I just hope they enjoy their holidays and their family, and remember the important parts of what Christmas really is (about)," Schoch said. "It's not just a tree. It's a whole lot more."