That’s Milledge Morris’ advice to folks looking for Christmas trees in Beaufort County as the holiday season nears — and the country feels the effects of a tree shortage.
Much of that shortage centers on Fraser firs, which growers such as Morris — who owns The Family Christmas Tree Farm on Lady’s Island — and Jerry Youngblood — whose family operates A&A Christmas Trees in Okatie — import from North Carolina, where it’s cool enough to grow them.
“(The shortage) is showing up in the prices big-time this year,” Morris said. “Some of my prices have gone up 30 percent,” he said, specifying Fraser firs in the 7-to-8-feet-tall range. His most popular size, 6-to-7-foot firs, have gone up about 10 percent.
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Youngblood has also seen a price increase.
“The growers we buy from (in North Carolina) say there’s a shortage,” he said. “I have no idea, but that’s what they’re saying. ... And prices have been up slightly, so we’re raising ours.”
A Nielsen poll for National Christmas Tree Association showed the average customer paid almost double in 2016 ($74.70) than in 2014 ($38.50), according to CBS News.
Youngblood said A&A will have about 1,000 trees — dozens of locally grown, choose-and-cut Leyland and Murray cypresses and white pines in addition to the imported firs — this year on the lot.
Morris said he’d have about 400 firs on his farm, and about a few dozen choose-and-cut eastern red cedars, Virginia pines and Leylands.
Kim Yerich, president of the South Carolina Christmas Tree Association and owner of Lebanon Christmas Tree Farm in Ridgeville, said more members of his organization — to which Morris and Youngblood belong — have been selling out earlier over the past couple years.
“We’re seeing a big pick up in demand (statewide) of family’s wanting to come out to the farms ... ,” Yerich said.
The shortage in North Carolina — and other leading tree-growing states, such as Oregon — has ties to economic downturn of 2008 and over-planting, according to Newsweek.
There was a tree surplus about a decade ago, and farmers planted fewer trees to compensate for it.
Still, Yerich says customers should be able to find what they want — even the Fraser firs — this year.
“I don’t think our farmers have had a problem getting them,” he said. “We’ve just had to pay more for them.”
Beaufort County’s S.C. Christmas Tree Association farms
A&A Christmas Trees
Opens Friday, Nov. 24
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily
42 Old Cooler Cir., Okatie, SC 29909
The Family Christmas Tree Farm
Opens on the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 23, weather permitting
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily
110 Trotter’s Loop, Beaufort, SC 29907