Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday December 7, 2022
Get’em while you can: Hamilton Christmas tree hunters scrambling amid shortage
Don’t dally, Christmas tree hunters: some local farms are already out of seasonal evergreens amid a chronic shortage exacerbated by inflation and extreme weather.
In the Hamilton area, several tree farms are warning their fields could be bare by next weekend — while a few are already sold out or not opening at all.
Jim Watson is selling only pre-cut evergreens this year — and only on weekends — because a series of “terrible, dry summers” wiped out fields of trees that might otherwise be open for the U-cut crowd.
But that didn’t stop eager tree hunters from flooding his Mount Hope farm the day it opened Nov. 26. “People are really trying to get a tree early,” Watson said, adding he would be surprised if he has enough pre-cut fir, spruce and pine to stay open beyond the Dec. 10 weekend.
Rinas Christmas Trees north of Rockton, meanwhile, alerted customers online they expected Dec. 3 to be the last day the farm would be open due to dwindling stock.
Hepburn Christmas Trees near Waterdown opted against opening for tree sales at all this year because their spiky seasonal crop needs “extra time to grow up.” (They’re still selling winter “greens” like wreathes.)
But Julie Hepburn marvelled at the sheer number of calls she fielded in the lead-up to the season. “I was getting calls in October asking when we were opening up for cut-your-own visits,” she said. “That kind of floored me.”
The angst over the apparent tree shortage has prompted Marek Durcak to pioneer a bold marketing slogan for his Hamilton-Burlington Christmas tree business: “We will never run out of trees.”
“People are worried because a lot of places ran out (of trees) so early last year,” said the owner of The Perfect Christmas Tree, which sells from a farm location in Flamborough as well as a parking lot near the Dairy Queen on Plains Road in Aldershot.
Durcak said he has limited cut-your-own trees at his 5th Concession Road farm, but he is otherwise relying on trucked-in trees from Nova Scotia to backstop his ambitious “never run out” pledge.
In general, Christmas trees are more scarce — and 10 to 15 per cent more expensive — across Ontario this year, said Shirley Brennan, executive director of the Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association. (In Hamilton this year, U-cut and pre-cut local trees advertised online range from $58 to more than $115, depending on size and species.)
Brennan blames the shortage on a mix of factors like extreme weather woes, inflation and a shrinking number of both tree farms and farmers. (The Hamilton Spectator)