Two rainy summers followed by drought have produced a shortage of some Christmas tree varieties in New York, especially Fraser firs, one of the most popular choices, according to growers.
"We've had it three years in a row now. Two with excess rain and now a drought. Mother Nature can't seem to get it right," said Robert Norris, a tree farmer and executive secretary of the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York.
Nationwide, there are approximately 22,000 farms producing Christmas trees on roughly 447,000 acres, according to the Missouri-based National Christmas Tree Association. Last year, Americans purchased 28.6 million Christmas trees, down from nearly 33 million in 2005.
"Nationally, there may be some isolated incidents but as far as we know growers are having a great harvest. People should be able to find a high quality tree," said Rick Dungey, a spokesman for the national association.
Oregon is the top producer in terms of trees harvested (6.5 million) and in acres planted (67,800), according to association figures. Pennsylvania has the most Christmas tree farms with nearly 2,200.
New York ranks among the leaders in all three categories: fourth with 1,650 farms; fifth in acreage with 32,600; and seventh in production with approximately 619,000 trees harvested annually.
New York tree farmers grow about a dozen of the nearly three dozen varieties of Christmas trees, Norris said. In recent years, Fraser firs have accounted for about 25 percent of Christmas tree sales in the state, he said.
The other top seller in New York is the balsam, which is native to the state. "There shouldn't be any shortage of balsam," Norris said.
While wet weather can cause fungus and disease, the dry weather that plagued upstate New York this summer — about three inches less than normal from June through September — will cause stunted growth and less vibrant evergreens, growers said.
"It was very dry this summer," said Tony Marquez, who owns Cranebrook Tree Farm in Cayuga County. "We lost a few trees, and with others we didn't get the growth that was needed."