Chicago, IL

You may have trouble finding a live tree this year due to a Christmas tree shortage

Jennifer Geer

Like so many other items in 2021, real trees are in short supply in the Chicago area

The shortage of live Christmas isn't a new problem but has been going on for nearly ten years. It all began with severe droughts that occurred in the U.S. in 2011 and 2012.

But this year, things are even worse with an increased demand for live Christmas trees since the pandemic and severe weather that caused damage to tree harvests.

What does the drought of 2012 have to do with buying a Christmas tree today?

Christmas trees grow an average of one foot per year. When severe weather affects a crop of new trees, the shortages will be felt years later.

Chris Hohenstein of City Tree Delivery in Chicago explained to NBC5 Chicago that trees he is selling this year were planted between 2012 and 2016. “I probably called 100 suppliers trying to get some new vendors this year. One of my main suppliers didn’t have any trees for me,” said Hohenstein. “Anything we’re trying to sell this year was probably planted in 2012 to 2016. So, we’re really limited and will probably be limited for the next several years.”

Trees will sell out early

In Spring Grove, one tree farm will be closed after this coming Sunday, December 5th. The owners of Richardson Cut-Your-Own Christmas Tree Farm in Spring Grove posted on Facebook to let their customers know the tree farm would only be open until December 5th.

In their Facebook post, the Richardson family gave the following explanation, "There are a number of reasons for this [closing early], including our estimate 8 years ago of how many trees we could sell in the future coupled by some pretty tough growing conditions in recent years. Our supply will be much better in the near future, but this year most tree growers will have a limited selection."

George Richardson, co-owner of the farm told the Chicago Tribune that he expects his 5,500 Christmas trees to be completely sold out by December 5th, "It’s a lot of trees, but if I was going to be open until December 20 like we used to be, I might need 8,000 trees to sell."

Other reasons for the shortage

It's not only the drought of 2012 creating the shortage. Some other factors have come into play as well. According to the Tribune, the tree shortage is also due to having fewer growers in the Chicago area these days, supply chain problems, and the fact that sustainable harvests can limit the availability of the trees.

Planning for the future

The Richardson family did offer some positive news on their Facebook post, "We have planted extra trees the past 5 years (10,000-13,000 seedlings each year), but it takes time - 6-8 years of care to grow a nice Christmas tree."

That means, over the next few years, farmers that have planned ahead could have a larger harvest of trees available.

In the meantime, if you want a tall, local, live tree in your home this Christmas, don't wait too much longer, or they'll likely be gone.

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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area. New articles published each weekday.

Chicago, IL

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