Timber! Christmas Tree Farms Topple Around Central Ohio
At Dale Tree Farm in Delaware County, Shannon Schoch and her family found just the right tree.
"You guys like this one?" Schoch asks. "Yeah, I like it. It has a good shape at the top."
The Schoch family has come to this tree farm to purchase their Christmas tree for several years. But after the owner Martin Dale died this year, the tree farm is closing.
Brian Schoch says his family didn't know it was their last chance for this tradition.
"It’s kind of sad we have good memories of when the boys were little, good pictures of them, so we weren’t aware of that, but that’s kind of sad to hear,” he says.
What’s happening at Dale Tree Farm is playing out around the state. The Ohio Christmas Tree Association reports about 160 growers exist today in the state - that’s down 20 percent, or 40 growers, from a decade ago.
The National Christmas Tree Association also blames the Recession in 2008 for a drop in Christmas trees. Tree supplies dwindled when demand declined and farmers stopped planting as many trees, which take seven to 10 years to grow.
Even with fewer trees, though, business is still good. Two of the eight farms in Delaware County reported selling out of trees in five days. At one farm, buyers snapped up all of the Norway spruce trees.
Nationally, tree prices increased slightly this year to an average price of $55. In Delaware County, prices range from $6 to $10 a foot, while some tree farms charge a flat rate of $40-50.
In early December, Christmas tree buyers swarmed the Fly A Way Farm near Alum Creek on the only weekend it opened. After 25 years of selling Christmas trees, Marti and David Davis expect to slow down their operation - half of their 30-acre property is up for sale.
“We’re older now and we just felt like we needed to downsize," says Marti Davis. "And the thing is, Dave is so particular about our land, that even though we weren’t using it and really we hadn’t planted trees in that part, but he mowed every bit of it and it would take him forever, because he wanted to keep every inch of the land looking nice."
Farmer William Cackler, of the Ohio Christmas Tree Association, grows 20,000 trees on 25 acres in Delaware County. He says sales have improved each of the past 10 years, but it costs more to own land in this county, so future Christmas tree farmers will move to less expensive places.
“We have the opportunity, we have the market here in Delaware County, and now we’re losing growers. Can the rest of us respond?" Cackler says. "That’s going to be questionable if the rest of us can pick up the slack, so to speak."