State Christmas tree growers having boom year

Dec. 4—Texas's $250 million Christmas tree industry is having a good year, the Texas A&M Forest Service reports.

Texas-grown trees are all "choose-and-cut" sales where buyers have to go to the farms to select and pay for a tree.

Stan Reed, executive secretary for the Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association, told the forest service that Christmas tree farms across the state have been busy.

"A lot of them will be sold out of the choose-and-cut trees this weekend," he said in a press release. "Right now, everybody seems to be doing well."

Choose-and-cut tree sales explode the day after Thanksgiving, and some growers actually sell out that first holiday week.

Dan Schaefer, who operates Lee County Christmas Trees with his wife, Susan, said traffic at his six-acre tree farm increased 40 percent over last year. Schaefer told the forest service he expects to sell 250 to 300 trees this season.

In a previous interview, Reed said the industry was hit hard by drought this summer, although trees that were lost were mostly seedlings. More mature trees may not have reached their usual height, he said.

The trees we see at corner lots here in the Valley are almost all imported from North Carolina, South Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Oregon or Washington. Those trees will be more expensive this year due to the sharp rise of diesel fuel, up 40 percent this year.

"Prices of pre-cut trees that came from out-of-state probably went up because of transportation costs," Reed said. "But choose-and-cut trees didn't go up in price this year."

Next year that may not be the case due to sharp price hikes in fertilizer.

Texas-grown trees are almost all Virginia pine, Afghan pine, Leyland cypress or Arizona Blue Ice cypress. Virginia pine is the most popular among Texas growers because it grows well across a larger portion of the state.