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Christmas trees do well despite drought

By Dannika Lewis, dlewis@wisctv.com
Published On: Nov 23 2012 09:53:48 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 24 2012 01:05:02 PM CST

MIDDLETON, Wis. -

Scott Philipps bundled up his daughters, grabbed a saw, and set out on Friday to find the perfect Christmas tree.

By the time he got to Summer’s Christmas Tree Farm in Middleton, Philipps knew exactly what he wanted.

“Looking for a tree about 7 feet, 8 feet tall. Nice and full and green. Not a whole lot of open spots on it,” Philipps explained.

Cars filled the parking lot at Summer’s, with no sign of a struggling tree crop.

“For a tree grower, this is about as lousy as the year gets,” farm owner Bill Summers said.

Summers said the summer drought made the season difficult, but not for the trees getting sawed down this year.

“What it does most quickly is kill all of the seedlings we put in this year,” Summers said, “and most of those that we put in last year.”

That means if there is any impact on availability and price, Summers said Christmas customers won’t see that for another 10 years or so when the young trees are big enough to bring home for the holidays.

Regardless, the hot, dry weather is exactly what tree farmers want to avoid.

“It can be dry if it's cool,” Summer said, “so between the two, we've got to have one of the two.”

At Haan’s Christmas Tree Farm in Oregon, things were just as busy for the start of the selling season.

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Owner Greg Haan said if the drought was going to come any year, this was the year for it to happen.

He said there was actually a surplus of trees at his farm last year, giving him more of a back-up crop this time around.

“I don't even think in the next five to seven years customers will see any change just because of this one year of drought,” Haan said.

Haan added that he did have to toss about 1100 trees out of the 55,000 planted on his land.

A good August rain and an irrigation system through the fields meant only a fraction of Haan’s trees fell victim to the drought, leaving plenty for buyers.

“One year doesn't affect a 10-year cycle as much as people think it would,” Haan explained.

“By the time it has an impact on us, most people forget that we had a drought 10 years ago,” Summers added.

Back at Summers’, the Philipps covered the whole field.

It just goes to show that the toughest part of this season’s Christmas tree season will be finding just the right one.

“We eventually get there,” Philipps said.

Haan said Wisconsin is ranked fifth in the country for Christmas tree production.
 

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