Staff photo by Allison Potter
Dylan Denker, left, and Cameron Pless prepare an 8-foot Fraser fir for the Tait family, back left, at the Cape Fear Optimist Club’s tree lot on Wednesday, Dec. 5.
Christmas trees, one of North Carolina’s robust agricultural industries, consistently ranks second behind only Oregon in the number harvested annually with just more than 3 million reported in the United States Department of Agriculture’s last survey in 2007.
North Carolina has even held the honor of providing the official White House Christmas tree 12 times — including this year — more than any other state.
Of those harvested annually from the state’s roughly 1,500 Christmas tree growers, the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association’s executive director, Jennifer Greene, said 90 percent are Fraser firs.
“It’s encouraging, I’m hearing good reports from everyone at this point,” Greene said of this holiday season. “I think prices are holding steady from last year but I think more trees are going out.”
Overall, Greene also said the size of the trees being purchased has increased as well.
“Over the past couple years it seemed like people downsized more to be able to still get a real Christmas tree and I think that people are back more to the
8- to 9-foot trees now,” she said. “I know we have had several calls at the office for people looking for trees over 10 feet tall, more so than I’ve had over the past two years.”
Karen Dybis reported this same trend of bigger and more trees produced this year in a Dec. 1 article from The Detroit News that stated Michigan Christmas tree growers are experiencing their best year in a few years. In her article, Dybis quotes Michigan State University economics professor, Charles Ballard, as stating, “Bigger Christmas trees, fancier poinsettias — these are just more in a long list of indicators that the economy is continuing to firm up.”
Locally however, those running retail Christmas tree stands said business is steady or slightly declining so far this holiday season.
The rationale for the numbers could be the amount of competition in the area, with an increasing number of tree lots springing up in Wilmington every year.
Frank Clemons, a Winter Park Optimist Club member who has helped with the tree lot since 1973, said there is a lot of competition with other local groups to sell trees.
The club’s tree lot is currently located in Hugh MacRae Park.
The money raised from the trees, which come from Cline Church Nursery in Fleetwood, N.C., goes back into the community to support scholarships, fight childhood cancer and more.
It is still early, but sales are down slightly from previous years, with the club selling 800 trees ranging from $30-$200. Last year the club sold 900 trees, and years ago the club sold about 1,500 trees.
Many of the same tree customers return year after year to the Optimist Club lot and to Jackie McKee’s Oleander Drive and Farmers Supply lots.
McKee said about 90 percent of his customers are repeat customers and that between the two lots in Wilmington, the Richard Phillips Nursery. sells 1,200 trees grown in Avery County each year.