Nationwide Christmas tree shortage hitting farms in Southwest Virginia

Weather, economy impacts Christmas tree crops

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – Nothing gets you in the holiday spirit quite like a Christmas tree, but those evergreens are harder to come by this year.

Mother Nature and the 2008 recession are being blamed for a nationwide Christmas tree shortage.

“I mean, they’re cute when they’re like 3 feet and so, but unless we get a shrink ray and make everybody small, I don’t think there’s going to be any big Christmas trees,” said David Whitley, who lives in North Carolina, but is trying to find a tree in Virginia.

There’s no shortage of business for Hamill Christmas Tree Farm in Roanoke County

"It's my only livelihood,” said John Hamill, owner of Hamill Christmas Tree Farm.

After decades in the family business of running a Christmas tree farm, Hamill knows how Mother Nature can impact his livelihood.

"In drought years, I’ve had most of them die. More than half," Hamill said.

It’s not as much of a problem for his big trees with well-established roots, that are capable of getting their own moisture; however, the weather hits his small trees hard, which take six to 12 years to grow.

"Oh, I'm definitely concerned about the future," Hamill said.

This year's crop nationwide is also suffering because of the 2008 recession.

"A lot of growers, if they don't sell well or their finances aren't great, they don't plant in the spring," Hamill said.

Hamill said he's also worried because more tree farmers are retiring and can't find people to take over their business.

With fewer evergreens and a shorter selling season, Hamill said to shop early and be prepared to pay a little more.

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