By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily
Add Christmas trees to the ever-growing list of product shortages affecting the country this year.
But this shortage doesn’t have anything to do with COVID. It’s weather-related.
Due to a cold snap that froze trees, causing needles to turn brown, after the growing season started in Wisconsin and extreme high temperatures that burned trees in Oregon and Washington, the inventory of Christmas trees has decreased nationwide, including in Wyoming.
Doug Thies, owner of Big Paws Christmas Trees in Cheyenne, said this will be the first year in the 24 he’s been affiliated with the lot that he’s expecting a shortage.
Thies said he received an email Thursday morning from a supplier of Nordmann Firs, a popular variety of Christmas tree, that he will not be receiving his usual allotment of 250 trees.
Although he was able to find another supplier so he can continue to offer 800 trees, as he does every year, he was not able to replace them with the Nordmann Fir or Noble Fir — both favorites of his customers.
“Christmas trees are a cash crop just like corn or wheat,” Thies told Cowboy State Daily. “Weather has affected the availability of Christmas trees just like a humongous hail storm or drought could take out corn or wheat in our area.”
Thies starts selling his trees around Thanksgiving and this year, he expects to be sold out by Dec. 10.
One option to get the freshest tree, he said, is to cut it yourself — although it will probably look like the tree featured in the television show “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” That’s because Wyoming doesn’t have the right ingredients to grow the “plush, full beautiful trees that everybody wants,” he said.
“The soil type isn’t correct, the amount of rainfall isn’t correct and the wind and cold conditions don’t help,” Thies said.
But, if you don’t mind your tree looking a little naked, it will last. That’s because it’s fresh which is the most important thing, he said.
“At least it’s freshly cut. It’s going to be very, very, very, very sparse, there’s not going to be very many branches on it. But it’s going to last,” he said.
Thies cautioned Christmas tree consumers against buying at a big box store because the trees available there will probably not be fresh, he said.
He said to satisfy the demands of thousands of big box stores like Menard’s, Lowe’s, Home Depot, and WalMart, the trees will have been cut for two months before delivery and then, in many instances, spray-painted green.
“They have so many stops to make and so many trees to haul that if they started hauling on the day after Thanksgiving, they wouldn’t even get the trees to the box stores until just before Christmas and then the selling season is nearly over,” he said.
“By the time the consumer gets a hold of them, they’ve been sitting on cement or truck for more than two months,” he said. “They just fall apart.”
Instead, he said, go to a small local lot which receives freshly-cut trees — his trees are cut a week before Thanksgiving — and buy one on Black Friday.
“Don’t wait to get your tree right before Christmas,” he said. “That’s not how it works. The freshest tree is the day after Thanksgiving on a lot that sells fresh Christmas trees.”