Dec. 5—Locals preparing to make the season merry should be ready to open their wallets a little wider when picking out Christmas trees, as area vendors say prices are up and stock is limited.
Many local tree vendors that offer pick-your-own trees have either already closed for the season while others — including Smolak Farms in North Andover — say they'll have enough stock for another solid weekend of sales before it'll be nothing but "Charlie Brown"-style varieties left on the lot.
"I wish I could find more to sell," said Michael Smolak, who oversees the South Bradford Street family-owned farm.
This year, Smolak had both fraser and balsam varieties available. He quickly ran out of the 300 cut-your-own $89 trees he started the season with, and has enough pre-cut trees left for another weekend of sales. The weekend before Thanksgiving, 200 pre-cut trees had been sold from his initial batch of 1,600, he said.
As trees fly off the lot, Smolak said supply issues will persist. A shortage due to recent droughts is expected to last four or five years, he said, which will hamper future growth. Trees grow on average a foot per year.
As of Nov. 29, Wood Street Tree Farm in Groveland — like many others in the area — posted a message on its website that they had already closed for the season due to depleted inventory.
Farmers insist this year's greenery includes extra fees passed on by necessity.
"We're very uncomfortable raising prices the amount we have to," said Stephen Rogers of Bradford's Rogers Spring Hill Garden Center, which he co-owns with his sister Barbara Rogers Scharneck.
The family-owned business sells pre-cut Christmas trees, in addition to kissing balls, wreaths and other custom-made pieces, Rogers said. An average 7- to 8-foot tree sells for $70, an estimated 15% increase over last year.
Like Smolak, the Rogers family has faced supply issues — having to source trees from Canada when they usually receive them from Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Smolak said prices must "unfortunately" rise 10% to 20% in order to meet rising farming costs. This year's balsam trees at Smolak start at $69, while the frasers begin at $113, according to the company's website, depending on the height of the tree.
"It absolutely kills me because I know it is more than I want to charge, but we don't have any choice," Smolak said.