Hurricane Florence's moisture means muddy harvest but moist needles in NC Christmas trees

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— The day after Thanksgiving is a popular day to shop for a Christmas tree, and tree farmers want shoppers to know that rain from Hurricane Florence won’t necessarily push prices higher.

“There’s so many trees to pick from,” said tree buyer Eleanor Thorne.

That’s music to the ear of farmers like Chad Phipps, especially after what he calls a tough harvest at his farm in West Jefferson.

“If the ground is muddy, you have to pick the tree up and carry it rather than just drag it on the ground, and it takes double the time because you don’t want to get the trees muddy,” Phipps said.

He blames a really wet year for the muddy harvest, a wet year that included a visit from Hurricane Florence. But he, and many other farmers at the North Carolina Farmers market, say customers won’t notice a difference in price, at least not this year.

Larry Smith with Jennifer Greene, Executive Director of the NC Christmas Tree Association

“On the wholesale side, those prices are pretty much set before the harvest time, the orders are already in and the customers you have every year, you can’t just jack the price up one year you know,” Phipps said.

And lots of rain is not all bad when it comes to Christmas trees.

“The thing is, all of my trees, all of my needles are super-saturated. Everything has a lot of water, a lot of moisture content,” said farmer Aaron Cole. “Last year, everybody said it was dry because of all of the forest fires. This year everything was wet, so yeah, all of the needles have a lot of moisture.”

The freshness you can smell and feel is not going unnoticed by the shoppers.

“We always put our trees up and down and pull on them and tug on them, and these are very fresh trees. I like them,” Thorne said.


Farmers are hoping to sell as many trees as they can this year to continue to keep prices down for future generations of tree buyers.

Several farmers said there is still a slight Christmas tree shortage from the down economy a decade ago. They say many of the trees for sale this year were planted in 2009 or 2010 when farmers were cutting back on the number of trees they planned to sell.