Why Manitoba Christmas tree farms are bracing for a slow season

Christmas tree farms in Manitoba are preparing for a down year due to a shortage of trees throughout the country and North America.

Timber Trails Tree Farm will not allow choose and cut operation this year and they will only provide pre-cut trees, while Windrift Christmas Tree Farm is taking the opposite approach. Only choose and cut will be available.

Dan Friesen owns Timber Trails Tree Farm with his wife, and said there are a couple of reasons why they are going the pre-cut route.

“We just don’t have the inventory this year to have our choose and cut operation open,” he said. “We had a few years where we had most of our trees freeze out. It was actually 2019, we ended up having an extremely wet fall and it went right into freeze-up, very wet like that, and most of our trees froze out that year. So I have trees, but they’re just not ready at this point.”

He also pointed out there is a tree shortage not only in Manitoba, but throughout Canada and North America.

“There’s a few brokers that bring in live Christmas trees in Manitoba, and most of those are brought in from either the U.S. or eastern Canada. I’ve talked to them because we ordered some of those trees in and they’re very hard to find already.”

Friesen said he knows there were weather-related issues that caused some of these shortages, and he also heard of some fires that destroyed areas. But he also mentioned that some farms oversold during the pandemic, and that is leading to shortages now.

With the pre-cut option the only viable route for Friesen, he said they are only expecting to receive a couple hundred trees. He isn’t sure how long they will last before he is sold out.

This is the exact reason why Windrift Christmas Tree Farm is going with the choose and cut option.

Jason Gauthier, the owner of the farm, said his tree plantation did very well with all the wet weather the province received this year, and allowing people to cut their own trees was a more viable option than bringing in a small number of pre-cuts.

“We could have got about 100 trees. We normally get 800 to 900 trees…it wouldn’t have been fair because we would have been sold out in the first few hours,” said Gauthier.

Gauthier is expecting there will be around 400 trees available for customers to cut themselves and take home. With the limited options, he knows business won’t be as busy as usual.

“Some of our normal customers who get pre-cut trees will not come out this year. They will wait another year or two.”

Even though tree sales will be down, Gauthier is still encouraging people to come out as sleigh rides will be offered and people can sit around a fire and enjoy hot chocolate, as well as go on a trail walk through the area.

Looking ahead to future Christmas seasons, both Friesen and Gauthier think there will be a bounce back in the Christmas tree industry, maybe not right away, but sometime soon.

“Quite honestly, I would be surprised if it would be next year. I think it will happen, but quite honestly, I think it could take a couple of years,” said Friesen, who noted it takes time to get trees to grow to the proper selling size.

Both tree farms are scheduled to open on Nov. 26.

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