When it comes to Christmas traditions, picking out a tree ranks near the top of the list. Even Kevin McCallister knew this, chopping down his very own makeshift tree in Home Alone. As people have opted to stay home and be a little extra with holiday cheer, local tree farms have experienced a boom in 2020.
“People—especially millennials—are circling back to using live trees in their Christmas celebrations,” says Brian Bartels, owner of Bartels Farm in Butler County, “and this year’s demand has easily surpassed supply.”
Bartels took over operations of the family farm in 2008. In response to COVID-19, Bartels moved to an online reservation system this season, with time slots “filling up faster than usual.”
According to Matt Mongin, president of the Ohio Christmas Tree Association and owner of Spring Valley Tree Farm, demand for fresh-cut trees in 2020 is at an all time high. “[On Black Friday] we had a line to get into our farm about a half mile long. People were waiting about on to one and a half hours to get into our parking lot, which holds 100 cars/trucks.”
Mongin says they sold more than 750 trees the day after Thanksgiving, drawing close to 5,000 people through his 20-acre farm. Between the record crowds and extra safety precautions they had to take, Spring Valley Tree Farm’s 2020 season lasted just three days. “It was a lot of people—and we’re in a COVID environment, so we were having to be extra careful.”
This boom applies to local tree lots, too. Erika Turan, who overseas communications for Boy Scouts of America Troop 149, says their Mariemont lot has already seen an increase of 15 percent over the same time last year, and 54 percent ahead of where they were in 2018. “Tree sales have been extraordinary in 2020. We’re prepared to stay open daily until December 19, but we’re only open until we sell out of trees—and we anticipate that may happen in record time this year. Our advice is for folks to come see us sooner rather than later!”
The demand for live trees is only going to increase, too. “We’re going through a period where people are returning to using live trees in their celebrations,” says Mongin, “and…the availability of wholesale tree inventory is tight—putting more and more pressure on the people who grow them.”
The industry needs more growers, and if 2020 has you thinking of a career change, consider becoming a tree farmer, suggests Mongin. (Yes, really!) The Ohio Christmas Tree Association offers mentorship and assistance to encourage the next generation of growers—“and we definitely need more growers,” says Mongin, who, after 30 years in the business, is ready to retire himself. “It’s a wonderful, fulfilling career,” he says. (They also have a “farm finder” on their web site to lead you to your perfect tree.)
This year has been enough to turn anyone into The Grinch. But with the holidays in full swing, it seems that Cincinnatians are embracing the season and swapping their fake trees for the real deal. And with so many small businesses struggling this year, it’s heartwarming to see local tree farms getting so much love.