Millennials are keeping Christmas tree farms afloat

In Buzz, December 2018 / January 2019by Hart Fowler

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With slumping sales over the past decade due to baby boomers turning to easier-to-manage plastic Christmas trees now that the kids are (hopefully) out of the house, there was a big question looming on the minds of tree farmers: would millennials pick up on the tradition of buying a real Christmas tree?

The answer is a resounding yes.

With a 17 percent price surge in live trees over the past two years, which is expected to continue through this holiday season due to increased demand, millennials are putting the “royal” back into Tannenbaums like the iconic film of their generation, and their predilections for environmental consciousness and supporting all things local has led to a resurgence in the tradition of tree buying.

“This is the first time in more than a decade that many local tree farmers are profitable,” says Tim O’Connor, the executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA).

Byron May and his wife, Diana, have owned Jordan Lake Christmas Tree Farm since 1994. “We have seen an increase in demand for real trees over the past few years, coming off a period of time where there was a surplus of trees,” says May.

According to the NCTA, the reason millennials have continued the tradition of choosing live trees over artificial ones is that they’re hip to the environmentally friendly practices, and locally grown offerings, of tree farms.  Each acre of trees on a farm produces enough oxygen to support the annual daily needs of 18 people. Farmers use sustainable farming techniques, and with each tree harvested, three seedlings are planted to replace them the following spring. 93 percent of trees are recycled in the U.S., ground into mulch and repurposed for other landscaping uses.

As for buying local, the Christmas tree industry employs roughly 100,000 Americans, whereas 85 percent of artificial trees are imported from China.

With millennials carrying on the real Christmas tree tradition, farmers are tapping in to their own new traditions, helping to coordinate opportune social media moments when young buyers are selecting or cutting down their trees, and having hashtags and geotags at the ready.

At least for now, having a real Christmas tree for the holidays is not going to be a lost tradition, gone the way of letter writing or phone calls, and it won’t be relegated to an existence only in the nostalgic songs of days past, when we roasted chestnuts over an open fire and knew what a partridge in a pear tree was.

So, when it comes time to get your tree this year, go local—go spruce, fir or pine—over plastic.

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