BALLWIN, Mo. — Talks of a national Christmas tree shortage after a year filled with raging wildfires and flooding leave many expecting to pay more for live Christmas trees this year.
Andrew Sullivan, co-owner of Sullivan Farms, spent the Sunday after Thanksgiving in Ballwin bundled in layers, cutting trees and helping families load them onto their cars.
The Christmas tree pop-up shop in Ballwin is one of six the company operates, in addition to selling trees to other Christmas tree retail locations.
Sullivan said the farm will have to purchase about 5,000 trees to meet the demand at all of its locations, and in recent years, that process has looked a bit different than it has in the past.
"It's been a little tough to get as many trees as we want to," Sullivan said. "I think we've had to get a little flexible and work with some new growers we haven't worked with before."
Sullivan said the farm went from working with one or two Christmas tree growers in past years to now having to get supply from six or seven in order to get the trees they need.
"Some varieties are hard to get from one farmer," Sullivan said.
While Mother Nature has been to blame for shortages in some states, Sullivan Farms gets most of their trees from growers in North Carolina and Michigan. Sullivan said the shortage their growers experienced had more to do with the economic recession in 2008.
"When they sell a tree, they plant a tree," Sullivan said. "There weren't as a many tree sales around that time. It was a hard time for everybody."
The 10 years since the end of the recession is about the time it took to grow the trees currently being sold, so a low number of trees planted at the time means fewer are available to be sold now.
However, Sullivan said bringing in other growers has allowed the farm to have the supply they need without substantially raising prices.
"We just had to get a little more creative," Sullivan said.
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, the average price of a tree this year is $76. That price tag is more than twice as much as it was in 2008.
Sullivan said an 8-foot Frazer fir, the most popular tree he sells, is about $65.
The nature of the business means change, good and bad, takes time.
"It's just something we've had to battle lately," Sullivan said. "I don't think next year will be any different."
Sullivan said the support from loyal customers and the company's ability to get creative has kept it from taking any financial hits.
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