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Why it’s so hard this year to find a Michigan Christmas tree

rows of Christmas tree
Fraser fir, douglas fir, blue spruce, white spruce and white pine are all available at Huron Christmas Tree Farm. Larry Davis, owner of the farm, told Bridge Michigan in an interview that he noticed demand had gone up during the pandemic. This year, he closed the farm early because he ran out of viable trees. (Shutterstock)
  • While demand for real Christmas trees is high, supply is low due to economic woes and the drought this past summer 
  • Farmers saw an increase in demand during the pandemic, when people made a family activity out of cutting down their own tree 
  • Some farm have closed earlier than expected because they didn’t have enough trees ready to be cut and sold

Real Christmas trees have become so popular this year that some farmers have already shut down before the holiday, forcing tree-buyers to travel farther away or break tradition and settle for an artificial tree. 

Demand for real trees has been high since the pandemic when Christmas tree farms were among the few businesses that remained open, tree farmers say. It was an outdoor activity that allowed people to gather and social distance.


“It was the most enjoyable season for me personally, because what I witnessed was maybe three cars coming into the parking lot all at once, people getting out of them and little kids running across the parking lot saying, ‘grandma, grandpa, I haven't seen you forever,’” said Larry Davis owner of Huron Christmas Tree Farm in Huron Township. 

“It was great. I mean, it was like a real reuniting of families,” he said. 


Interest in real trees has only grown since then, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. Over 22 million real trees were sold in 2022 — up from over 20 million in 2021. 

But tree growers are struggling to keep up. Christmas trees take between 10-12 years to grow. After every season, farmers tend to plant double of what was sold. 

In Michigan, which has the nation’s third largest Christmas tree harvest each year, behind North Carolina and Oregon, about 2 million trees are harvested every year, bringing in about $40 million. But some trees were lost due to the drought that occurred over the summer. 

During the week of July 4, about 50 percent of the land in the state was categorized as either in a moderate or a severe drought. 

It is also an El Niño year, which means warm water in the Pacific Ocean will likely push to the east, causing places like Canada and the northern U.S. to experience a warmer, drier winter. Farmers say these conditions mean that trees that would have been ready for sale this year didn't get enough water over the summer.

Despite the lack of rainfall, John Gwizdala, owner of Middle Road Tree Farm in Highland, predicts he will sell around 600 trees this year, which is typical for his farm. About 50 percent of his trees were sold on opening weekend, he said.

Typically, his farm sells out within a couple of weeks of opening. He then plans to bring trees from a wholesaler in northern Michigan to meet the demand and make up for trees that aren’t ready to be sold. 

Not only do people go to Christmas tree farms to find and cut a tree, but it also serves as a family outing. Some farms have hot cocoa, donuts and even a Santa Claus. 

“If you want the family experience … go out and cut your Christmas tree and enjoy a day with the family and have your hot cocoa,” Davis said. 

Most farms open the weekend before Thanksgiving and many sell out of trees ranging from scotch pine, fraser fir, balsam fir,  black hills spruce, within two weeks. 

“At our Christmas tree lots, I've had a lot of first-timers,” and people who haven’t gotten a real tree in a few years, said Vincenzo Vultaggio, co-owner of Vultaggio Royal Tree Farms in Boon Michigan, outside of Cadillac. 

“We're starting to maybe see a little bit more of a shift with some [of] the millennial population … coming out and getting a real tree versus a fake tree,” he said.


People are starting to see the value in buying a real tree because it is a family experience where people can cut down their own tree and decorate it. That’s more valuable during the holiday season than buying an artificial tree and getting it out of the basement, Vultaggio said. 

Artificial trees on average range from under $100 to $1,000 or more, according to the American Christmas Tree Association. Real christmas trees are about $10- $12 per foot.  

“Artificial [trees] have a larger market than real Christmas trees but, we're seeing a significant amount of increase in people that want to move towards real Christmas trees,” said Amy Start executive director of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association. 

Unlike artificial trees, Christmas trees need to be watered daily to stay fresh  and prevent home fires once they are decorated with lights and ornaments. 

While some people don’t mind spending extra money on an artificial tree that can be used for a few years to avoid going out and cutting their own tree, real Christmas trees can be recycled and used after the holiday season. 

“You might have to throw away an artificial tree, especially if it's pre-lit and the lights go out, which is bad for the environment because they sit in a landfill,” Start said. 

“A real Christmas tree, you can recycle it, you can use it for mulch, you can put it out in your yard after the holidays and let the birds perch on it,” she said.

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