Christmas trees in high demand in northeastern Ontario
Surge in popularity coincides with shortages of some species throughout the province
Sudbury's First Copper Cliff Scouts have been selling Christmas trees for 24 years, but this year's fundraiser was like no other.
"We started selling trees at about quarter to 9. I would say by 10:30 we had sold over 100 trees," said group commissioner Kerry Radey.
"It was insane. Never, never has it been like that."
As people prepare to celebrate the season at home, Christmas tree sellers are seeing a big demand this year — at a time when growers are also reporting a shortage of some species.
According to Christmas Tree Growers of Ontario, demand for fresh trees is up 25 per cent this year — something executive director Shirley Brennan attributes to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"People, you know for the last nine months haven't had enjoyment, and they really want to embrace something that they can enjoy," Brennan said.
Brennan also noted that families that may have celebrated together in large groups at one home in previous years, are getting trees for each home this year, because of gathering restrictions.
At the Scouts Christmas tree sale, people were warned ahead of time about slightly lower stock this year, but like Brennan, Radey believes that's not the only reason for the rush of people who bought Christmas trees in November.
"The other thing that people said to us was 'well, we're home anyway, and we're not going out, so we're going to decorate early,'" Radey said.
'Everyone wants a Fraser fir'
The lower stock for the Scouts' sale was due to a shortage of trees being felt across the province — the result of poor growing seasons about a decade ago.
"The Fraser fir is the be-all and end-all of Christmas trees. Everybody wants a Fraser fir, and that's the one you're going to have trouble finding," Brennan said.
At Neal's Country Farm and Market in Sault Ste. Marie, owner Allyson Neal is encouraging people to embrace "underdog" trees, like the Scotch pine. But even for those, she says people should shop soon.
"Last year we had people crying because they couldn't, they didn't get a tree, and I feel like that may happen again this year."
Neal says if the current demand keeps up, she expects to be sold out of Christmas trees in about a week.