Ginny Nadeau, whose fiancé is majority owner of Merry Christmas Trees in Windham, uses a clipper to top the crop on Wednesday. Christmas trees are a hot commodity, and some farmers expect to sell out as early as this weekend. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The weekend after Thanksgiving used to be the slowest of the season at Merry Christmas Trees in Windham. Owner Doug Fortier said the shift began a few years ago, when more customers started driving up the gravel road to his tree farm in November.

Now, his season barely extends into December.

“The last two or three years, we sold out in three days,” Fortier said.

That perfect fir is the must-have item of this holiday season, and Christmas tree farmers are predicting another year of high demand and tight supply. The crunch has particularly affected those who rely on the state’s dwindling roster of wholesalers, and some groups have scaled back or even canceled their annual fundraising sales because of the lack of trees.

So whether you cut your own tree in a field or buy from a local nonprofit in a parking lot, growers and sellers suggest shopping early if you want to avoid a Charlie Brown choice.

“Everyone who wants a real Christmas tree should be able to find one,” said Jim Corliss, a retired tree farmer from Hampden and former president of the National Christmas Tree Association. “They won’t necessarily find one at the place they usually go, but there should be enough to go around.”


In recent years, growers said they have seen greater interest in natural trees over artificial ones, especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People want genuine experiences, and it’s difficult to find that in a plastic Christmas tree,” said Ryan Liberty, president-elect of the Maine Christmas Tree Association.

The Hill family of Cape Elizabeth carry their Christmas Tree to the car after purchasing from the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Rotary’s Christmas Tree stand Saturday at Mill Creek in South Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The increase in demand has run into a decrease in supply, and understanding the shortage requires a trip to Christmas Past. Today’s trees grew eight to 10 years before they were big enough to even trim. But a decade ago, farmers were still feeling the effects of the Great Recession, when many growers planted fewer trees or went out of business. Other stressors include recent drought conditions, which can decimate seedlings and cripple future harvests.

Jill Sidebottom, seasonal spokesperson for the National Christmas Tree Association, said the supply could be tight for another year or two as growers catch up. She suggested customers use the directory on the Maine Christmas Tree Association website to find a tree, although that list includes mostly choose-and-cut farms and not resellers.

“It’s not like during the pandemic when you tried to find toilet paper and the shelves were completely bare,” Sidebottom said. “There are trees available, but if you want a certain species or you need a certain size, it’s best to shop early.”

Josh Hill of Cape Elizabeth ties down his family’s tree on Saturday at Mill Creek in South Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer



If watered properly, Corliss explained, cut trees will last for weeks.

“Go get your tree the day after Thanksgiving, even if you don’t plan to put it up right away,” he said. “Take it home and put it in a bucket out in the garage. Just keep the butt wet.”

The Old Farm Christmas Place in Cape Elizabeth opened a couple of weeks ago, and customers have already been tagging trees to cut down closer to the holiday. Owner Jay Cox will have the usual number of trees for sale this year – about 2,100 – and has plenty left at this point. But he usually sells out a week or two into December.

“When I run out, I’m out,” Cox said. “We always plan for the same number every year to be available, but I know that the last couple years, folks were calling here mid-December looking for trees, and everybody was sold out around me. I think maybe demand has increased in the last few years.”

Doug Fortier, majority owner of Merry Christmas Trees in Windham, shapes trees on Wednesday in preparation for a Saturday opening. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Farms who sell wholesale are usually busiest in the weeks before Thanksgiving, when they are getting trees ready for their clients. Melissa Higgins is the general manager at Sprague’s Nursery in Bangor, which is a co-owner of G & S Tree Farms.

Three years ago, the farm sold more than 23,000 trees to wholesale customers. This year, they expect to sell only 13,000. Higgins said they did not have enough trees or workers to do more this year.


“We unfortunately had to cut our customer base, and that’s been a really difficult thing to decide,” Higgins said. “Because we know that if we cut somebody off our list, they are not going to find trees anywhere else.”

Farmers also said the number of wholesalers has decreased. Len Price is the owner of Nutkin Knoll Farm in Newburgh, where he does a mix of wholesale and retail sales. He grows trees on parcels in seven towns and has taken over some fields from retiring farmers. He and his wife, Nancy, are still getting calls from interested buyers in and out of Maine, but they don’t have the capacity to accept them all.

“Fewer and fewer growers,” Price said. “Fewer and fewer everything in agriculture.”

“Younger people coming into it – boy, very few – they’re not coming into it with 100 acres of trees or 40 acres of trees, but maybe four acres of trees,” he added. “They want to do a choose-and-cut retail operation.”

Doug Fortier, majority owner of Merry Christmas Trees in Windham, adjusts his cap before using a trimmer to shape trees on Wednesday in preparation for a Saturday opening. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

That shortage has affected some nonprofits planning annual fundraisers. The American Journal reported that some groups will have fewer trees than usual, and the Westbrook-Gorham Rotary Club could not find any trees for its usual sale and is selling wreaths instead.

Fran Bagdasarian of the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Rotary Club said the group was fortunate to get its usual 2,000 trees from G & S Tree Farms. Their sale in Mill Creek Park is in its 60th year.

“The demand is high for the real tree,” she said. “A lot of people are wanting to be festive in some way and be outside. Last year, we could not believe how many people lined up on that opening day.”

One procrastinator, however, is Price. His family never puts up their tree until Christmas Eve, and it’s usually the last one on the farm.

“We take bets on which tree we’re going to get,” he said with a laugh.

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