Seasons fleetings: Quebec faces Christmas tree shortage as demand soars
Prefer to buy last minute? You might be disappointed with your pick, says tree farm owner
Decking your halls may prove to be more difficult this holiday season as Christmas tree farmers in Quebec and across the country grapple with a shortage of supply due to high demand and adverse weather conditions.
Some tree farms in the province opened over the weekend, including Plantation des Frontières in St-Armand, near the U.S. border, where co-owner Luce Fontaine worries she'll blow through her supply in the next couple of weeks.
''Usually it's not the biggest weekend, the next two weekends will be bigger," she said.
Demand this year is higher than the rate her family business can grow their trees, Fontaine said, noting it takes between eight to 12 years to grow a single, six-foot-tall Christmas tree, which her husband began doing on their farm in 1980.
The shortage is, in part, due to a growing demand for trees in recent years, said Larry Downey, co-owner of Downey Tree Farm and Nursery in Hatley, near Sherbrooke, Que.
"Before the [COVID-19] pandemic, there was a rise in demand for natural Christmas trees across North America and the United States," he said, adding that the past two years exacerbated the problem with people staycationing in their homes and yearning for some extra holiday cheer.
"In the past there was always an abundance of trees; now there's a small shortage," said the former president of the Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association.
According to the association, the industry has expanded from a $53-million industry in 2015 to a $100-million industry in 2020.
An early frost this past spring also ruined a portion of Fontaine's crop, along with several others at Quebec farms, which limited the amount of natural, live trees available this season.
Buy early this year, says tree farmer
Downey urges consumers to buy their Christmas trees early as supply is selling faster and earlier this year.
"The ones that prefer to buy last minute, they might not find the exact tree they were looking for," he said.
Montreal resident Coral Drury heeded that advice, driving out to St-Armand to pluck a prized pine for his family this weekend.
Drury has been purchasing his annual Christmas tree at Plantation des Frontières since his oldest daughter was a baby, but this year was the first year that he needed a reservation.
"A lot of places, they only take reservations this year and they're already sold out," he said.
Reserving a spot is the only way to guarantee a Christmas tree this year, according to Fontaine.
"We take the reservation this year because we have some trees, but we don't want to have too many people at the same time," she said.
While Fontaine says maintaining her farm is "a long process and a big investment," she says loyal customers like Drury make up a big part of her business and also make it worthwhile.
"Its a lot of work, sometimes it doesn't look [like] it, but it's a labour of love."
Based on reporting by Rowan Kennedy