Christmastime is almost here, and people in the Cape Region seeking a live tree will be able to get one at Winter Wonderfest thanks to Lewes-based Coastal Christmas Trees.
Sales of trees start on Black Friday, and owner Bryon Haupt said they are available on a first-come, first-served basis, at the Hudson Fields airplane hangar.
Haupt said availability of trees is an issue right now, as there is an ongoing nationwide tree shortage. He said the reason for the shortage is because new trees have not grown to market size fast enough to keep up with demand.
Haupt runs his own tree farm on Hudson Road, leasing the 14-acre site that had been run by Sposato. He said this year, the farm will be open for one weekend only, Nov. 26-28, and will likely be closed to tours for the next few years to allow new trees to grow. Haupt said how long the farm stays closed to the public will depend on how fast the trees grow. He said he still plans to sell pre-cut trees at Hudson Fields or on the farm during that time.
“We will have trees. This is a long-term investment. I’d want the quality of trees to be what I’m known for,” he said.
Haupt said a lot of things are playing into the shortage.
“In about 2018, we started to see the shortage of really large Christmas trees. As we cut 10- to 11-foot trees, the next year the shortage goes down to 9- to 10-foot trees. It’s just a trickle-down effect. A Christmas tree is not like any other crop. It’s not a rotational crop. When we plant a tree, we’re not expected to see a Christmas tree for seven or eight years,” he said.
In addition, Haupt said, older Christmas tree farmers are retiring or selling their land, and they and their operations have not been replaced.
“It’s a year-round process that it takes to raise a Christmas tree and keep it healthy. In this area, with the housing development, a lot of land is being sold off as farmers retire,” he said.
Another issue, he said, is shipping, as orders have been slower to come in. There have also been cases of disease in the southern U.S. affecting supply.
“It’s not one thing that you can put your thumb on,” Haupt said. “I’m looking at a three- to five-year window when I can get my Christmas trees rotated.”
Haupt has cleared a large section of the farm to plant 1,000 Christmas trees this spring. As he sells off a portion of the trees already on site, he will begin filling in the rest of the property. His goal is to plant 750 to 1,000 trees a year over the next three to four years.
The typical Christmas tree is about 8 feet tall; Haupt said in ideal conditions, a tree will grow a foot per year. Growing season starts in early May with planting a seedling to grow through the summer. As the tree grows, it gets sheared in the winter, which Haupt said is important for keeping its proper shape.
Haupt has operated Coastal Christmas Trees since 2018, but has been involved with Christmas tree growing since he was a teenager, working at Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Leighton, Pa. He said he views the farm as a way to give back to the community, providing the same joy to young people today that he experienced growing up.
“We’re looking forward to the future, which I think is very bright. We’re going to have a good opportunity to get our trees planted in the springtime. I think we have a great future ahead of us,” he said.
For more information on Coastal Christmas Trees, go to coastalchristmastrees.com.