Local Christmas Tree Farms See Boost in Sales As Big Box Retailers See Shortage

Retail Christmas tree sellers are experiencing a shortage, though that's not a problem for small, local farmers who have their own natural inventory, they said.

DULUTH, Minn.- As the holidays draw closer, owners of Christmas Tree Farms in the Northland are seeing a boost in business this year, as a shortage at bigger box retailers is drawing people to shop local farms for their trees and wreaths.

“I probably have a million trees and about half of my farm is, I would say 100-120 acres have ‘cut-able’ Balsam and Spruce,” said Keith Miernicki, owner of Duluth Saginaw Stove Works and Christmas Tree Farm.

According to Miernicki, this year his Choose and Cut-Your-Own Tree Farm is doing well compared to 2019. “Last year there was that big snowstorm right and people couldn’t go into the woods so it was a slow, slow year.”

“But this year I’m doing really good. I’m surprised how good I’m doing,” he said.

Families can drive through the acres, find and cut the tree they like most, while also sledding down the nearby hill or building snowmen out front — Miernicki’s favorite winter moment since he bought the land in 1966.

He can see retail Christmas tree sellers experiencing a shortage, though that’s not a problem he said, for farmers like him who have their own natural inventory.

“I never have experienced a shortage because my trees are growing here,” said Miernicki. “And the people that have to go to farms and buy trees that are cut, I see that there’s a shortage there.”

And over at Abrahamson’s Tree Farm on Howard Gnesen Road in Duluth, this year’s business is also growing even though it’s only been open a week.

“Normally like this coming weekend will be a really busy weekend for me,” owner Bobby Abrahamson said. “So I guess I could maybe be up 100 more [trees] than I would’ve last year at this point.”

Unlike Miernicki’s farm, at Abrahamson’s customers walk around and view the selection of wreaths and trees pre-cut out front, or walk around to the farm in the back to pick one out fresh.

Abrahamson also said he sees retailers experiencing shortages, who come to him to buy in bulk. “People have been calling me for, if I’d wholesale to buy hundreds. And I have just what I need for my customers.”

“So yeah, I would say there’s probably a shortage out there,” he said.

What brings people back to local farms every year, he said, is the idea of a fresh, real evergreen tree in the living room.

“Just having the fresh smell of the tree, and that aspect in your house of just something real. And just brings kind of a magical wonder to I think the whole holiday season as well,” said the tree farm owner.

It’s that desire for a natural tree that brought Jill Halverson in to Abrahamson’s. “We have always preferred a real tree. Every year. I love the smell, wouldn’t be Christmas without a real tree.”

Halverson’s family has been coming since her daughters were young: “this is my first year out here my husband usually brings the girls and I just get thing ready at home,” and it’s also the earliest her family’s been out.

“Usually we go the first weekend in December but we decided to come a little bit earlier,” she said. “Got all the decorations up in the house so want to add our tree.”

Though owner Abrahamson said many customers’ eye for a tree is usually bigger than what their house can actually take. “It’s always people get a bigger one than they need. 90% of the time.”

For natural trees, Miernicki says local farms are always the way to go.

“They started cutting trees I would say three weeks ago up in Canada for places like Walmart and the big box places,” he said. “Those trees are old trees. When you come here you know they’re fresh cause you just cut them.”

That was never in question for Halverson, who said she’s loyal to her local Abrahamson’s.

“Our tree farmers, or restaurants or whatever it is we can do to support our local businesses is extremely important to us,” she said.

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