Local tree farmers on pins and needles this Christmas season

Tree shortage has growers pondering future

Ontario Christmas tree farmers are feeling the effects of low supply and high demand for their products.

Blair Quesnel of Quesnel Tree Goods in Nottawa, near Collingwood, says the combination of weather, droughts, and pesky gypsy moth caterpillars have made it hard to keep up with increased demand.

The timing of the rain matters, says Quesnel. ” We might get rain for a week, but then if we have dry conditions for three weeks, it affects the seedlings.”

“People love the Fraser fur trees, but if you get drought while growing, they will die.

The demand for real trees has also increased over the last few years, saying he sold out last year before December. “The Collingwood area, in particular, is growing very fast. I’ve had clients from the previous 30 years who didn’t get one last year because of new customers.”

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A few years of these challenges have led Quesnel to think ahead to next year. After this year, he says he won’t have any trees to sell, “Because I’ve lost so many, I’m going to have to wait 3 or 4 years for the new ones to mature before I can offer cut-your-own.

Another factor is many older farmers have retired, and no one has taken over the business.

Quesnel jokes that it helps to be young for those who want to get into the business.

“Be prepared for long hours and frustration when you lose half your crop. It takes 10-12 years to grow an 8-foot tree, and one year I planted 1,200 trees and only 1,000 took.”

He recommends trying to find someone to prune the trees. “When I was young, all the kids would go out to the field and prune trees, but now it’s hard to find someone to go out in minus-30 weather to do that.

If you get your tree early, Quesnel stresses you should leave it outside on the north side of the building and out of direct sunlight and wind. Have a fresh cut on the bottom and get it in water immediately.

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