Digital Media Center
Bryant-Denny Stadium, Gate 61
920 Paul Bryant Drive
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0370
(800) 654-4262

© 2024 Alabama Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Register for Glenn Miller Tickets in Mobile on May 30.

COVID-19 credited with higher live Christmas tree sales


Christmas is right around the corner and decorations are going up. Numbers across the country show more people are purchasing real Christmas trees this year. Marsha Gray is the executive director of the Christmas Tree Promotion Board. Her organization does exactly that, they promote the use of real trees for the Christmas holiday.

“Our purpose isto help to create greater demand for fresh cut Christmas trees and also to support the industry, we do that through promotion, through education and we also do fund research on Christmas tree production,” says Gray.

Credit Christmas Tree Promotions Board

Gray thinks the COVID-19 pandemic could be having an impact on sales. Something as simple as being told to stay home can be a benefit to the people who own the farms where the trees are grown.

“If you are staying home, you’re more likely to put the Christmas tree up. If you think you’re going to be travelling for the holiday, sometimes you’ll pass and say I’ll wait to get to someone else’s house to enjoy the decorations," he said. "We really do think that has something to do with the pandemic and being in our homes more.”

The Christmas Tree Promotion Board did a study earlier in the year to see what kind of impact the COVID-19 pandemic would have on the sale of real trees. Grays said the outlook for tree growers looked good.

“Our gut was telling us it would be a very strong year. When people stay home and face adversity, we tend to see increases in real Christmas tree sales," said Gray. "That’s what our consumers’ survey told us and in fact that seems to be exactly what seems to have played out.”

That is how it is playing out in south Alabama. Steve Mannhard is the owner of Fish River Christmas Tree Farm in Summerdale in Baldwin County. He said some places are even running out of trees.

“I’m getting call after call from the Pensacola area, there are no real trees in the Pensacola area. We’re getting a lot of calls that people can’t find real trees right now. That’s because everybody that had them is sold out," said Mannhard.

Before discussing how well business is going, Mannhard wanted to make some clarifications for anyone looking to buy a tree. There are certain terms that will make things easier for anyone still looking for a tree. “We tend to call the trees that grown as a crop in the United States, we tend to refer to them as real trees. They of course are alive in terms of when they are grown. Once they’re cut, we usually don’t refer to them as live trees, we refer to them as real trees.” But wait, Mannhard said there’s more.

“There is such a thing as a living Christmas tree which is one that is grown in a container. We’re able to do that in south Alabama pretty well because the winter is a planting season. We’re able to grow some of our trees in containers and sell them as living Christmas trees.”

Mannhard is also the senior vice president of Southern Christmas Tree Association. He said his farm leans towards the trees that grow better in the south.

“The ones that we grow are primarily Virginia pines, a number of different varieties of Cypress trees, the Leland Cypress, the Murray Cypress, a tree called a Carolina Sapphire, another tree called Blue Ice, they’re really good trees but they’re different than the old standard fir tree that is grown up north.”

Putting up a real or living Christmas tree instead of an artificial one comes with some responsibilities. These trees have to be taken care of once they are put in the home and certain safety procedures should be followed. This is where Andrea Vastis comes into play. She is the director of public education for the National Fire Protection Association. She said one of the first things people need to do is simple.

Credit National Fire Prevention Association

“So this is the thing we need to be really careful about," said Vastis. "Making sure that tree is watered every day, I like to say designate someone in your home as the official tree waterer to make sure it gets done.”

This not only keeps the trees looking better, but it keeps them from drying out. Many of the trees brought into homes also produce resin which can be flammable. This brings up Vastis’ second tip.

“You really need to pay attention to that tree as well," said Vastis. "Make sure that it is not within three feet of a heat source or a candle or something else that can catch the tree on fire.”

Vastis goes on to say that tree fires can be quick and cause a lot of damage.

“The number of trees that catch fire is not very high, unfortunately they are very devastating. It is important you are keeping that tree watered, paying attention to it and when it starts to turn brown and the needles really start falling off its time for it to go,”  she said.

Once the holidays begin to wrap up and the decorations begin to come down, there are several uses for the family Christmas tree. Steve Mannhard said there some that are beneficial to the environment.

“The one that we deal with, and it could be done all across Alabama is using the old trees as fish habitats in ponds," said Mannhard

The one that really excites him is one more suited for the coast.

“They use Christmas trees for creating dunes," he said. "The collect them and put them next to dune fences and they tie them up to them and the sand accumulates around those Christmas trees more readily. So they’re used in dune restoration.”

Credit Pixabay

Mannhard said after all the hurricanes that have hit the Gulf Coast this past year, he is glad some of his trees will be used to help fight the beach erosion. There should be plenty. He said despite the storms and the damage his farm took from hurricane Sally, it looks like a good year for tree producers.

“Both statewide, throughout the south and nationwide it seems like everyone is setting records in the amount of trees they sell," he said. 

Mannhard’s farm typically sells around five thousand trees a year, most of them being trees grown at his farm and not brought in from northern farms. This year he has already cleared the five thousand tree mark.

News from Alabama Public Radio is a public service in association with the University of Alabama. We depend on your help to keep our programming on the air and online. Please consider supporting the news you rely on with a donation today. Every contribution, no matter the size, propels our vital coverage. Thank you.