Summer drought threatens winter Christmas trees

(Photo: WKRN)

A dry growing season of the past has threatened Christmas present and future.

Christmas tree farms across the country are reporting losses due to extreme temperatures and drought during the summer months.

A Tennessee Agriculture news release stated, “Most losses have been reported in White Pine and Leland Cypress trees.”

The same trees are grown at Brown's Holiday Farm on Highway 31 in Gallatin.

“These Leland Cypress will grow four, five feet a year,” said Owner Steve Brown.

Brown has planted, grown, and trimmed trees for 14 years.

This year, his business nearly dried up.

“I had small trees, and they just didn't establish good root systems,” he said. “So when we had that 113 degree weather, they just died.”

Brown lost 450 trees. Like many growers, most of his losses were newly planted seedlings that take four to six years to mature.

“It's not like regular farming where you can lose a crop one year and come back the next year,” Brown said.

Brown lost 5,000 trees to drought a few years ago. Since then, he scaled back his business.

After this year's loss, Brown has 1,000 trees ready to go on his chop-your-own-tree farm.

“I'll plant again next year and probably have enough leftover residual trees to have plenty for next year too,” he said.

Other growers will not have the luxury.

According to the State Agriculture Department, “one to three new seedlings are planted for every three harvested to ensure a constant supply.”

Some tree growers are reportedly cutting fewer trees this year to shore up crops in the years to come. That could mean an uptick in price.

Christmas trees are considered renewable, eco-friendly holiday decorations. Unlike artificial trees, living trees contain no petroleum products and are biodegradable and recyclable.

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