Despite rising fuel costs and frigid weather, strong sales among many area Christmas tree sellers helped them avoid getting a lump of coal this holiday season. ``We've sold more this year than we ever had,'' said Jennifer Fields, manager of the Tree Farm in Marlborough.
Despite rising fuel costs and frigid weather, strong sales among many area Christmas tree sellers helped them avoid getting a lump of coal this holiday season.
``We've sold more this year than we ever had,'' said Jennifer Fields, manager of the Tree Farm in Marlborough.
The farm began selling after Thanksgiving and moved about 150 trees this season and saw more demand than in past years, she said.
Many Christmas tree sellers saw green last year, when 28.6 million trees were sold across the country, for a total retail value of $1.2 billion, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. An extra 9.3 million artificial trees sold for about $630 million, according to the industry group's Web site.
The group estimated sales of $1.4 billion during this Christmas season from the purchase of 30 to 35 million trees. Across the region, sales were brisk, despite rising energy costs that translated into price increases for tree customers.
Casey Vandervalk, of Vandervalk Tree Farms in Mendon, sold about 1,000 trees this year and sold out by Dec. 9. The average tree went for $55, he said, which was an increase over 2006.
``Tree prices went up between 5 and 10 percent,'' said Vandervalk.
His farm has been growing trees since 1984 and started selling them in 1994, he said. Sales are roughly split between pre-cut trees and those chopped down for a specific buyer, he said.
``There's more demand for cut-your-own trees,'' said Vandervalk, who noted the pre-cut trees shipped in from other farms tend to be larger than those grow at his business.
Despite rising business costs, local Lions Club tree sellers have kept the same prices levels for the last few years, said Tony Minucci, district governor for the region's clubs.
Minucci's district includes 47 communities, including Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Holliston, Hopkinton, Bellingham, Medway, Millis and Waltham.
``(Tree sales) were great,'' said Minucci, noting Dec. 14 through Dec. 16 was a ``fantastic'' selling period. ``We sold out over a week before Christmas.''
The average price is $25 and up for a Lions' tree, plus the organization also donates trees. All the money raised is donated to community charities and eye research, he said.
Minucci said many customers buy their trees from the Lions every year.
``We have a following, which is great,'' he said.
Forrest Higgins, of Higgins Family Christmas Trees in Ashland, said the recent harsh weather made for some tough days on workers, plus some buyers had to be content with frozen trees that would thaw later.
Most of their trees come from Nova Scotia, but they also bring in some from Quebec, North Carolina and Michigan. Sales begin around Dec. 1 and some trees were still available as of Christmas Eve, he said.
``Sales were strong,'' said Higgins. ``It was a good year, we sold a lot of trees.''
And what to do with that tree after Christmas has passed by and dried needles start piling up?
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection works with communities to create tree-recycling programs, according to the department's Web site. About 200 communities offer tree recycling, according to the DEP. A list of Massachusetts communities offering Christmas tree recycling is online at earth911.org.
Local Boy Scouts may also be collecting trees in area communities.
Dennis Prefontaine, the council executive for the Boy Scout's Knox Trail Council in Framingham, said residents should contact their local Boy Scout troops to learn whether they'll pick up trees this season.
John Hilliard can be reached at 508-626-4449 or firstname.lastname@example.org.