This year, things like baking cookies, trimming the tree, and sharing smaller, more traditional experiences are likely going to dominate the holiday season.
It is that exact thing, that Dutchman Tree Farms and other Christmas tree farms around the Cadillac area are banking on. With area tree farms opening up for customers this weekend, the hope is thinking smaller this holiday season will have people seeking out ways to make memories, according to Dutchman Tree Farm Customer Service Manager Katie Dodde.
"The biggest challenge we have seen (in 2020) is getting trucks to come to get the Christmas trees," she said. "We are not expecting a lack of want as people across the country are excited to get into Christmas. In fact, it is one of the years we wish we had more Christmas trees to sell."
While there is a Christmas tree shortage across the country, Michigan Christmas Tree Association Executive Director Amy Start said it isn't necessarily going to a person looking to get a real tree in the Cadillac area.
Missaukee County is the largest Christmas tree producing county in the state, followed by Wexford County and then Oceana. Nationally, Michigan ranks third in wholesale production of Christmas trees trailing only Oregon and North Carolina. Smart also said Dutchman is the largest tree farm in Michigan.
To achieve that ranking nationally, Michigan farmers are utilizing more than 27,000 acres of land for Christmas tree production on more than 600 farms, according to Smart. Annually, there are 2 million Christmas trees, wreaths, and other conifer creations sold that come from Michigan, which equates to about $35 million, Smart said.
As for the shortage, Smart said that has been ongoing for the past several years, and more accurately it is a "right-sizing" of the market. For years, there were too many Christmas trees being produced. During the Great Recession that started in 2008, Smart said many farmers got out of the Christmas tree business because they couldn't afford to sit on that much land waiting for the trees to mature.
As a result, there are now fewer trees available. There also are not a lot of people who are going into farming. There are more localized choose and cut operations, but when it comes to wholesale Christmas trees the options are fewer. Nationally, that is where the shortage happens.
"Anyone who is looking for a tree in Michigan can find them, but someone who calls now looking for a truckload of trees, it is too late," she said. "(Farms) have been sold out since the spring."
As for the upcoming season, Smart said she agrees with Dodde's assessment that it is shaping up to be a good year in terms of sales. Smart said all people have to do is look at the sales of commodities recently to see a trend. Things like pumpkins and apples had some of the best selling seasons because people are looking for outdoor experiences and something they can do with their families, according to Smart.
A recent survey by the Christmas Tree Promotions Board shows similar sentiments as it pertains to people wanting to purchase real Christmas trees.
The board found in its recent survey of more than 2,000 adults this past summer, 92% expect Christmas to be different this year, and 91% of those folks believe it will be different in a good way.
A majority of respondents (72%) said it’s important to purposefully create good memories, and 86% agree that it’s possible to make good memories even during bad times. Physically, people want to make their home a more pleasant place (84%), and emotionally, they want to make this Christmas more memorable (82%) and make it the best Christmas for their kids (78%). Thirty-eight percent expect the holiday to be less hectic this year, and 35% plan on creating new traditions.
Smart also said tree farms will be taking extra precautions this holiday season to make sure people are safe. This includes keeping most things outside, mask-wearing when around people outside of their immediate family, and social distancing.
"Our farms had Zoom calls and talked about how to keep it safe for customers and employees. The farms can't have COVID run through the operation and shut them down," Smart said. "There will be lots of preventative measures like plexiglass at the cashier area and putting the operations outside as much as they can."
For more information about the Christmas tree industry in Michigan or to find a local lot or choose and cut operations go to www.mcta.org.