Local growers meet Christmas tree demand

BARK RIVER – While some people spend the day after Thanksgiving shopping for specials or burning off those extra calories they consumed during their Thanksgiving Day feast, others prepare to set up their Christmas trees as the month of December quickly rolls in.

Joe Teal of Teal’s Tree Farms in Bark River expects the next few weeks to be quite busy for the business, which officially opened its doors for the season Friday.

This year marks his 36th year with the business, which operates two tree farms that together comprise approximately 220 acres.

“Years ago we never opened up until the first of December back in the 70s and 80s,” he said. “People didn’t start buying their trees until it got into December, but now they want it around Thanksgiving.”

According to Teal, the two most popular tree types with customers are the Fraser fir and balsam fir species and most trees they sell are seven or eight feet tall.

“Balsam is a traditional tree and Frasers retain their needles well,” he said. “The Fraser is more expensive, but they’re harder to grow in this area because they originate from the Appalachian Mountains and the Carolinas.”

Other available tree species include concolor white fir, white spruce, blue spruce, and white pine. The Scotch pine, another species Teal’s grows and sells, is unavailable this Christmas due to a young crop, and looking forward, Teal predicts a low number of Fraser firs available in future holiday seasons.

“Our supply is getting down on the Fraser fir, just because we’ve had so many droughts in the last eight years, so we’ve been struggling there,” he said.

Despite this, Teal said Fraser firs are probably the best species to get for those wishing to put up a Christmas tree this early in the holiday season.

“I wouldn’t recommend buying a spruce this early because they don’t retain their needles as well,” he said. “Most people that really like spruce know that so they usually come about two weeks before Christmas. We get people here three days before Christmas cutting trees. It all depends on your tradition.”

Teal noted one of the benefits of having a tree farm is customers know the trees are freshly cut. However he does offer advice to those visiting a tree lot to select their ideal Christmas tree.

“If you’re buying off a lot somewhere, you want to feel the tree to make sure they don’t have a lot of excess needle dropping and if they do, that might be a sign that that tree’s getting dry already,” he said.

If buying from a lot, he also recommends cutting an inch or one-half inch from the trunk prior to placing it in the stand since the bottom seals up and may not draw water well without a fresh cut.

Another major factor for the customer is the temperature inside their homes. Wood heat, for instance, creates a very hot and dry atmosphere for the tree inside the house.

“I’ve also heard people say that they’ll get their tree now and they’re not going to put it up for a week or so and they put it in a pail of water,” he said. “That’s not a good idea. You’re better off to keep it in a cold garage, out of the sun and wind and then just give it a fresh cut when you put it up. By putting it in water and letting it just sit there, it’s drawing all that water and it might not draw when you go to put it up in the house.”

According to the Michigan Christmas Tree Association, approximately 25 to 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. each year. The average growing time for a tree is seven years, though some trees take as many as 15 years, or as little as four years, to grow to a typical height.

The top Christmas tree producing states are Michigan, Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

For more information, visit www.mcta.org.