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Scoutmaster says Christmas tree lot closed by longer holiday season, not shortages

Nathan Baker • Dec 10, 2017 at 10:34 PM

The Boy Scouts Christmas tree lot in Johnson City’s Old Kiwanis Park was nearly empty Thursday, with only a handful of off-kilter trees leaned against each other under bare-bulb strings of lights.

A quick look and you’d think Troop 237 was hard hit by the tree shortage everyone’s been clamoring about, but Scoutmaster Larry Taylor said that’s not the case.

“Personally, I don’t think there’s a shortage, that’s what I see,” he said, taking a break from winding together live tree trimmings for 90 feet of garland.

Taylor planned to end the selling season Saturday because he’d sold his budgeted trees, but said the lot’s lack of product was caused by the year’s early Thanksgiving.

The traditional Christmas tree selling season starts the weekend after Thanksgiving and runs through Christmas Eve. Five to seven years ago, Taylor planted the seedlings he sold this year.

He usually plants enough trees to sell in three weeks, the span between the holidays when Thanksgiving falls in the last week of November.

This year, Thanksgiving fell on the 23, allowing four weeks and some change until Christmas. Next year, Thanksgiving will be on the 22, the earliest date possible for the holiday.

Taylor said the cost of seedlings has nearly doubled since last year — a potential effect of the shortage scare — but he said with careful planning, lots should have plenty of trees to sell.

“We sold a lot more trees this year,” he said. “I could go get more trees, but I don’t want to use all my stock this year and then not have enough next year.”

Part of his decision not to cut more trees was to keep from wasting any, he said. Sometimes, commercial retail lots have to dump trees that don’t sell by the end of the year.

“I think some of the feeling that there’s a shortage comes from overuse, overharvesting,” he said.

Last month, the National Christmas Tree Association warned of a tight market because of the effects of the Great Recession a decade ago.

Fewer people bought live trees as disposable income dropped, creating less demand for them and leaving less room for seedlings to be planted on farms, the association said. Some smaller farmers were also squeezed out of the market as their incomes fell.

Other tree sellers have pointed to wildfires in six Southern states last year that knocked out some farms, making a national shortage worse regionally.

Still, the Christmas Tree Association said there should be plenty of trees, though they may be slightly more costly and some buyers may have to settle for a less-than-perfect fir.

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