(SUSSEX COUNTY, Del.) - Harsh weather conditions are forcing local tree farmers to charge more for Christmas trees this year.
"This year was a very, very trying year," said Don Hallowell of Don's Tree Farm in Greenwood. "This is our 10th anniversary, 10 years in Christmas trees, and this has definitely been the most extreme, hardest year to control."
Hallowell says his farm has seen a loss of between 350 to 450 trees this year alone.
"Everything that is normal was not normal due to rain, high heat, and high humidity. And the rain brought in Phytophthora, which is root rot."
And according to Hallowell, a struggling harvest means higher prices for consumers.
"The cost of trees are probably up on average $10 a tree over last year. It just seems like everything in this industry is on an upswing, but it all relates back to the shortage of trees."
Across Sussex County, co-owner Jim Landis of Landis Tree Farm in Harbeson says he supplements his supply by bringing in trees from out of state; however, weather conditions have also prevented cutters from getting those trees delivered on time.
"Generally, we have our trees a few days before Thanksgiving. This year, we did not get our full tree order until the Wednesday after Thanksgiving," said Landis.
As for the trees grown here, Landis says his main concern is not so much the number of trees, it's the size.
"The trees that we have in the field a lot of them are smaller trees. In prior years, we've had problems with weather, which these trees need a certain type of weather to really grow well."
Both Hallowell and Landis predict the tree shortage to last well past this year.
"Five years ago, there was an overabundance of Christmas trees, and now it's gone the other way," explained Hallowell. "I've talked to people that have been in this business for 30-40 years, and they said it goes through cycles all the time. So, we're in a cycle now of shortage of trees for at least another four to five years."