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Seeing Green

Bad economy no problem for real Christmas tree sales

December 14, 2008
By RICHARD NILSEN/The Leader-Herald

Samantha Sanges of Gloversville didn't let the bad economy stop her from carrying out her family tradition of buying a real Christmas tree this season.

Sanges bought her tree from Callen Farm in Gloversville.

"I get a tree for the smell," Sanges said. "They have great trees."

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

From left, Tyke Kenyon of Goderie’s Tree Farm, along with John Smith and Paul Vanhorn of Lexington Center, bail a Christmas tree for a customer at Lexington Center in Johnstown last week.

Christmas tree growers and retailers report that many people, like Sanges, continue to buy real trees despite the slow economy.

Bob Eaton at Bob's Trees in Hagaman said in tough times, family traditions make a comeback.

He said sales of Christmas trees are ahead of last year's.

"We're more than 10 percent ahead [compared to] this time last year," he said last week. "Last Saturday [Dec. 6] was one of our best Saturdays ever."

Eaton said a cut-your-own tree sells for $40 unless the tree is a white spruce, in which case it sells for $30. Yard trees sell for $25 to $50, depending on size and species.

John Avery, owner of Avery Trees in Gloversville, is also optimistic. He said his sales are up about 5 percent from last year.

Eaton and Avery said the weather just before the holidays plays an important factor in tree sales.

They said unseasonably mild temperatures and rain last December kept the sale of trees lower than it might have been.

Avery said he's been selling his trees at Johnstown Agway for the past 20 years.

Fred Muhlberger, who manages the sale of trees at Agway in Johnstown and bought one of Avery's tree farms, said he sold about 1,500 trees last season and hopes to sell as many or more this year.

"Frasier or balsam are the best trees to buy," Muhlberger said. "We've kept the price in the low $30s - same as last year."

Lexington Center's sheltered workshop in Johnstown is partnering this year with Goderie's Trees in Johnstown to serve as a retail outlet.

Tim Fiori, a spokesman for Lexington, which serves the developmentally disabled, said it's a good arrangement for the tree farm and Lexington.

"Things are slow at the [Lexington] workshop right after Thanksgiving," Fiori said.

Fiori said he hopes to expand the sale of trees to its Gloversville location at Route 30A and East State Street and for the workshop employees to make kissing balls and wreaths next year. He said they got started too late to do that this year.

"Goderie's bring in 50 trees at a time," Fiori said. "It was a little slow at first. It's a learning experience."

Teresa Brueggemann of Broadalbin bought a table-top tree from Bob's Trees.

"It was only $10 for a table-top tree," she said. "I can build my [miniature] Christmas village underneath."

Mike Goderie, owner of Goderie's Trees, said he has about 600 wholesale customers in New York and more than 1,000 in the Northeast.

"We talk with a lot of other Christmas tree businesses," Goderie said. "They are all up this year. People still need trees."

According to Eaton, the approximately 15,000 Christmas tree farms in America produce about 1 million acres of trees with an average of three trees planted for every one harvested. These trees would not be planted if not for the production of real Christmas trees.

Eaton said the first harvest of trees is usually seven to 10 years after the initial planting.

This means that for seven to 10 years, the tree has been providing a refuge for birds and other forms of wildlife and making a contribution to the atmosphere - taking in carbon dioxide and other gases and producing fresh oxygen.

"Real trees are also biodegradable. Compare that to the artificial Christmas tree that not only produces toxic hydrocarbons as a byproduct of the manufacturing process, but also fills up our landfills when disposed of," Eaton said.

Robert Norris of the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York in Red Creek said people buy real Christmas trees because of tradition.

"You don't have a plastic turkey on Thanksgiving and you shouldn't have a plastic tree at Christmas," he said.

Norris said people have been coming out early and in large numbers to choose and cut trees at farms this season.

Eaton said people should "shop green this year and purchase a real Christmas tree at one of the many local farms that can be found across the country."

Aaron Hassen, marketing manager at Christmas Tree Lights Etc., disagrees with Eaton's opinion of artificial trees.

Hassen said an artificial tree is a single purchase that lasts 10 years, so it makes good economic sense during difficult economic times.

"Artificial trees are hypoallergenic, don't present the fire hazard of a real tree and don't create the cleanup and care factor such as keeping a tree watered," Hassen said. "The resemblance of newer 'true tip' trees also gives a look and feel much closer to a real tree."

He said figures reported at show U.S. consumers buy artificial trees 60 percent of the time and real trees 40 percent of the time.

He also reported a 400 percent increase in November sales of discounted artificial Christmas trees compared to a year ago.

Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at



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