After 25 years, a variety of factors have led to a decision by Chip-In Farm on Hartwell Road to suspend the sale of Christmas trees.
Increases in cost, decline in quality, and a shortage of helpers conspired to end the tradition, at least for this season, said Neil Couvee, who owns the enterprise with his brother Paul.
The situation next door at New England Nurseries is different. About two weeks ago, the outlet received its usual supply of 560 trees, said Mark Pederson, yard manager. His customers are paying 8.5 or 9 percent more than they did last year, and the increase is “all due to trucking,” he said.
Chip-In, whose main business is eggs and also is home to a general store, sold more than 500 Christmas trees a year at one time, according to Couvee. In recent years, the number has been 350.
Couvee said the trees are not only more expensive, but also “we are finding them harder to get. And they are all the minimum height, so there is no leeway.”
He pointed out that setting up the trees for sale “is just a lot of work. Four kids went to college this fall and we only replaced one.” He added, with a laugh, “We’re getting old.”
“This year, with the economy, we worry that with a price increase, people wouldn’t want to spend extra money,” he said.
The store continues to sell holiday greens, baskets, and wreaths, he added, as well as the luminaire kits sponsored by the Bedford Minutemen.
“We’re going to keep all the equipment, in case this is something we’re going to do down the road,” Couvee said. “But I don’t know if we’ll get back into it.”
Pederson, at New England Nurseries, said, “We don’t have any problem getting them because we’ve been with the same grower for 18 years. They have three million acres under cultivation.”
And that grower is in a part of Quebec that “had a good, normal rainfall in the summer,” Pederson said. The weather “didn’t affect supply.” Other dealers have cited drought as the main reason for significant price increases.
Couvee said some of Chip-In’s trees originated in Quebec, and others came from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
“Three or four years ago, three major Christmas tree growers just shut down,” Pederson recounted. Among those that remained, he said, the pandemic posed an additional challenge.