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Christmas tree shortage may make finding the perfect one a little harder

There’s a shortage of Christmas trees?

“It’s absolutely correct,” said Glenn Beers, of Old Homestead Tree Farm in Towamensing Township.

Beers said that nationally, there is a shortage. Places like Christmas tree lots are having a difficult time finding enough trees.

“We are still fielding calls for wholesale Christmas trees,” he said. The calls are coming from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and states further out. They’re looking for 7- and 8-foot-tall trees.

The root of the problem

The cause of the shortage is multifaceted, he said.

About five years ago, there were too many Christmas trees on the market. The low sales put some tree farms out of business. The glut also caused many tree farms to cut back on the number of trees they replanted, and nurseries stopped growing as many saplings.

But the problem didn’t stop there.

Tree farms are suffering from “gray hair disease,” Beers said.

The farmers are getting old, and young people aren’t going into farming. They can make more money in other careers and not freeze in the winter and sweat in the summer, he said.

The other problem is the cost of land.

For young people who are interested in farming, unless they come from a family that already owns a farm, the cost for land is too expensive. Beers’ farm has been in his family since it was purchased from William Penn.

He said he went into farming because he enjoys it.

“We like to see the land being used for crops, not houses,” he said.

They started planting trees in 1975, and now the third generation of customers comes to the farm to buy their trees.

“We’ve gotten to make great friends,” he said about his customers. “And we’ve made great friends in the industry.”

No ‘bad bugs’

Oscar Beck, of Becks’ Christmas Tree Farm in Slatington, said, “It’s a happy life, very satisfying.”

He said he really enjoys seeing the happy faces of his customers, and hopes people won’t be concerned about lanternflies.

“They don’t like the Christmas trees, so they go to the woods and feed on the vines,” Beck said.

He said he has seen only one lanternfly, and it was in the woods.

Likewise, Beers and Christopher Botek, of Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton, both said they have not seen any lanternflies on their farms.

“It’s very, very improbable,” Botek said.

Tanner Delvalle, a Penn State horticulture extension educator based in Berks and Schuylkill counties, said, “Christmas trees are not a preferred host for spotted lanternflies, so the probability of finding a spotted lanternfly or an egg mass on Christmas trees is low and should not be a reason for anyone to forgo having a live holiday tree.”

As for other insects, Christmas tree growers routinely spray their trees in the summer with an insecticide, and mechanically shake the trees before binding them at the time of purchase.

“We shake all of the trees. Any loose needles, any loose bugs are gone. It’s what the customers want,” Beck said.

“I want to have a tree that you want to buy.”

Buy early

All of the tree farms are open for business now, and given the demand, it’s best to get a tree sooner than later, they said.

“Don’t wait until the last minute to get your tree,” Beers said. “The selection might be low.”

Beck said the selection is best in the first two weeks of the season. At his farm, customers can cut their own tree until 5 p.m. or select from those already cut until 7 p.m.

And Crystal Spring Tree Farm has 100 acres that customers can access to find their perfect Christmas tree.

Becks’ Christmas Tree Farm has a variety of trees. Customers can cut their own, select from those already cut or purchase one that can be replanted. KRISTINE PORTER/TIMES NEWS
Becks’ Christmas Tree Farm has a variety of trees. Customers can cut their own or select from those already cut. KRISTINE PORTER/TIMES NEWS
Becks’ Christmas Tree Farm has a variety of trees. Customers can use the carts lined up here to go out and cut their own tree and bring it back to take home. KRISTINE PORTER/TIMES NEWS
In addition to trees, Becks’ Christmas Tree Farm also sales fresh evergreen wreaths. KRISTINE PORTER/TIMES NEWS