Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Mar 22, 2018

Iowa Christmas tree sales hold steady

By Makayla Tendall, The Gazette | Dec 18, 2017

About 95 million U.S. households will have a Christmas tree — 81 percent of them artificial, according to the American Christmas Tree Association.

But the other 19 percent head to tree farms, nurseries or stores to pick out a “real” tree for Christmas.

Dan Hoffman, who runs Hoffman Tree Farm at 9409 C. Ave. in Marion, said the majority of those picking out real trees stop by in the two weeks after Thanksgiving.

“It didn’t used to be that way,” Hoffman said. “The second weekend in December was the biggest. Now everyone buys early. I always joke: I sell as many as I can, as many as our fields will allow us to sell.”

Hoffman said he believes sales are earlier because families are together at Thanksgiving and want to relive a tradition by picking out a tree together.

“We get young families that used to have artificial that are now going to try a real tree,” he said. “We now have the third generation of families coming out. We’ve got empty nesters. It’s tradition. It’s what a family is used to.”

Jan Pacovsky, executive director of the Iowa Christmas Tree Growers Association, believes real Christmas trees are still in demand in Iowa.

“I’ve had a lot of calls from younger people looking for real trees,” said Pacovsky, owner of the Pine Acres tree farm near New Hampton in northeast Iowa.

“I think that they’re still interested in it if they get a fresh tree and take care of it properly. They grew up that way,” she said. “This is what a lot of the growers said: Their families are home at Thanksgiving and they wanted to go to the farms they grew up on. That’s nice they want to keep the tradition.”

Traci Olson, manager of the Earl May Nursery & Garden Center in Cedar Rapids, credits the company’s delivery service as one reason the nursery sells quite a few real trees.

“A lot of people want a real tree, but they don’t have the means to get it,” she said. “If you think about the standard person with a car or SUV, it can kind of be a little daunting for people to take a tree (home).”

For the last few years, Hoffman said the Eastern white pine has been a popular pick, but customers also rave about the Fraser firs shipped in from Wisconsin. Both varieties are fragrant, full and hold their needles and ornaments well, he said.

And though Pacovsky said the East and West coasts are facing a Christmas tree shortage — because farmers planted fewer trees during the recession about 10 years ago — she’s not seeing a decrease in Iowa.

Hoffman said he’s well aware of the impact hardship can have for tree farmers who have to plant eight to 12 years in advance.

“Growing Christmas trees is not for the faint heart,” Hoffman said.

Freshness Tip

Set your Christmas tree in hot water, which keeps the sap loose and helps the tree absorb moisture, Jan Pacovsky recommends.

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