DANVILLE, Ind. — The holidays are in the air and folks are getting festive… some going as far as decorating their Christmas trees with nearly a week left until Thanksgiving.
Hoosier tree farmers say all this spirit has led to record breaking sales, especially last year, but they expect the cheery craze to carry over into this holiday season as well.
Some people think it’s simply too early to think about Christmas, let alone decorate…
Unfortunately, central Indiana farmers are not only competing with scrooges but shortages of supplies and staff, as well as pricing surges across the board.
You won’t need to worry about being naughty or nice this year, at least when it comes to increasing your odds of getting a real Christmas tree. Experts and farmers alike agree all Hoosiers who want one will be able to get a tree.
But with an increase in demand – there may be less options available… at a higher price.
“There are getting to be fewer and fewer tree farms, unfortunately,” co-owner of Evans Whispering Pines Christmas Tree Farm Rita Evans said. “In this county alone there used to be 13… now it’s just us.”
Competition with artificial trees and real trees at big box stores have driven out many farmers who once called the rolling hills of Hendrick County home.
“We do have to think about all of that and of course we are competing with the artificial tree market now,” Rita said. “The cost has gone up for all our inputs and of course, we have to try and make a profit too.”
Despite the difficulty, business at Evans Whispering Pines Christmas Tree Farm along North County Road 400 West is good. The local tree farm experienced one of their best seasons in 33 years last year.
Co-owner Joe Evans thinks the pandemic helped push people back outside.
“We had a great year last year. I think just because this was something that they could still be outside most of the time and didn’t have to worry so much about the virus,” Joe said. “We had to close the field down where folks cut their own trees because we didn’t have the staff to sanitize everything routinely but they still came and got their pre-cut trees. That was our best year since… 2014. We had no idea what to expect. And people just kept coming and that was wonderful.”
Many of the real trees of the pre-cut variety come from the north. While central Indiana soil is favorable to grow spruces and pines, firs tend to fill the landscape above.
Joe drives as far as Michigan to stock his pre-cut trees. Rising prices on everything have forced his hand.
“The cost has gone up and we just have to raise our prices too… I’d rather not,” Joe said. “There’s extra charges in getting the product to us… if we can get it at all.”
From garland to green wreaths, experts say the supply chain crisis coupled with high demand this season had driven prices… north.
“Most businesses, large and small, are having some issues with and we’re seeing that also then come through in the prices,” assistant professor at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business Andrew Butters said. “Consumer demand is very high. It’s being supported by the increase in savings and the increase in income and wage gains that many have experienced during the pandemic and so that is gonna create a situation where it’s likely that we could see both an increase in prices but also potentially some goods that are less available than maybe some households would like.”
But don’t get your tinsel in a tangle just yet because at least one jolly old elf thinks if this year is anything like the Ghost of Christmas – last, they’ll be just fine, and you’ll have a real Christmas tree to rock around.
“Being out in nature and the fresh air and… it’s just a great thing for everybody, it’s just a great business to be in,” Joe said. “Through it all, the people that come, the memories they make here, that just makes it worth it for us… and besides, breathe in… I mean, that’s such a great, such a great smell and you’re not gonna get that with an artificial tree.”
Most central Indiana you-cut tree farms open for business the day after Thanksgiving. If you want a particular type or height of tree, taller options tend to sell out first.