It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas … tree buying season.
While the first two weekends in December are the busiest live Christmas tree buying days by volume, many may have visited Christmas tree lots as early as Thanksgiving. Or sooner. Especially this year.
Christmas trees have been no exception to recent supply chain issues affecting nearly every sort of product. The good news is that the issues should affect live Christmas trees a lot less than artificial ones. “Real trees are grown in the U.S. and Canada and are not shipped from China like artificial trees," Tim O'Connor, Executive Director of the National Christmas Tree Association, said. “The supply chain issues affecting artificial trees do not apply to real trees."
With supplies of artificial trees limited, many Americans will be turning to real trees, maybe for the first time. That means more demand for the real Tannenbaums. But, despite a year of heat and fires out West, increased demand and elevated shipping costs, O'Conner said there will be plenty of trees to go around. “Everyone who wants one will be able to get one," he noted. “Some locations may sell out, but there will be others nearby that will have trees right up to Christmas Day."
In the United States, growers harvest live Christmas trees in all but three states across the nation. Of the top 10 Christmas tree-producing states, two are in the West, three are in the Midwest and five are in the Northeast. But which are the nation's biggest tree harvesting states?
We forested the data and decorated the results based on two primary metrics: trees produced and tree production acres. Here are the top Christmas tree farming states by total harvest.
It's no surprise to find Oregon at the top of any tree-producing list. After all, Oregon is the heart of the Cascadia region, whose flag bears a giant Douglas Fir tree. The Pacific Northwest and the Cascade mountains are ripe with miles and miles of evergreens.
In fact, the Beaver State offers over 10,000 more acres of Christmas tree forest production than any other state. It accounts for nearly 16.5 percent of all Christmas tree acreage in the nation. The state grows just under four million production Christmas trees. That's a staggering number that encompasses nearly 30 percent of all farmed Christmas trees in America.
Five counties in Oregon are among the top 15 Christmas tree-producing counties in the country. Clackamas, Marion, Benton and Linn counties each farm more than 300,000 Christmas trees. In total, the four counties, all in the northwestern part of the state, harvest 3.5 million Christmas trees, a quarter of the nation's total.
On its own, Clackamas County ranks second of all counties in the United States for total Christmas tree production and No. 1 in Christmas tree farm acreage. That's more than 13 percent of all farmed Christmas trees in the nation. With over 1.8 million trees, Clackamas County farms more trees than every state except North Carolina.
But with recent extreme heat and wildfires, is there concern for the Oregon Christmas tree crop? “It was very hot in Oregon this summer," O'Conner says. "Our members there estimate about 10 percent of the Oregon trees that would have been ready for harvest were affected."
North Carolina is probably not your first guess as to which state farms the second most Christmas trees in the nation. Unless you've been to western North Carolina. That's where you'll find the expansive Blue Ridge Mountains and the smaller Brushy Mountain range. These regions flow with cascading mountainsides of evergreen trees. North Carolina farms over 3.7 million Christmas trees. That figure represents more than 28 percent of all trees nationally on more than 13 percent of all Christmas tree farm acres.
More than 99 percent of all tree species grown in the Tar Heel state are Fraser Firs. The sturdy evergreen fills those ranges of far western North Carolina. And how does that translate into Christmas tree production? The National Christmas Tree Association named the North Carolina Fraser fir the best Christmas tree species. And not just that, a North Carolina Fraser Fir was the official White House Christmas tree a record 13 times.
In the extreme northwest corner of North Carolina is sparsely-populated Ashe County. Ashe ranks No. 1 in the United States for total Christmas production, harvesting nearly 1.9 million trees. That represents a full 14 percent of all farmed Christmas trees nationwide and covers almost 15,000 acres. That's pretty good for second in the country.
The state's Ashe, Avery and Alleghany Counties rank as first, fourth and sixth highest-producing Christmas tree counties in America. Those three “A" counties produce 3.2 million Christmas trees collectively, nearly a quarter of the national total.
The Upper Peninsula may get all the natural and scenic glory, but for tree lovers, the heart of Michigan is the northwestern region of the Lower Peninsula's mitt. The stunning forested areas around greater Traverse City and Grand Rapids are ripe with acres of evergreens.
While some states specialize in one species of evergreen, Michigan prides itself in its diversity. The state offers a wide variety of pine, fir and spruce alike. All in all, the Great Lake State produces almost 10 distinct varieties of Christmas trees, including the almost 1.4 million Christmas trees grown in the state, more than 10 percent of all trees nationwide.
Three different counties in Northern and Western Michigan rank among the nation's top 20 Christmas tree-producing areas. But at the top of them all is Missaukee. Despite a population of just 15,000 people, Missaukee County produces over 570,000 Christmas trees. That ranks as No. 1 in the northern United States and fifth in the nation overall. In terms of pure tree acreage, it's the fourth-highest of the 50 states.
In the Wolverine State, it's not just about crop yield. Michiganders like to give back, as well. Per an agreement among farmers, for every Christmas tree harvested, they plant three new trees for future harvests
With over a million trees harvested, the Keystone State lives up to its name, which translates to “Penn's Woods." Despite its two metropolises on either side of the state, the rest of Pennsylvania is vast forest and farmland straddling the Appalachians. More than 7.5 percent of all Christmas trees are produced here in this Sylvania.
As opposed to other states where Christmas tree production is in one region, the Tannenbaums in Pennsylvania are in diverse areas. The county that harvests the most Christmas trees in Pennsylvania is York County, on the state's Southern tier near Harrisburg and Lancaster. The Anthracite counties of Carbon, Columbia and Schuylkill rank 18, 20 and 24 in the nation for Christmas tree production in a region around Scranton.
Out west, closer to Pittsburgh, is Indiana. The city is known as the “Christmas Tree Capital of the World" for the preponderance of Christmas tree farms dotting the region, an oddity so close to a city. While Indiana County ranks just fifth on the list of Christmas tree-producing counties in Pennsylvania, its Christmas bonafide runs deep as the home of the introspective George Bailey, portrayed by Jimmy Stewart in the classic holiday film “It's a Wonderful Life."
The very first reference to a Christmas tree in print was in Germany in 1531. It was in Middle Ages Germany where most Christmas tree traditions originated, including bringing them indoors. That Germanic tradition continues in Wisconsin, the state with the third-largest number of residents with German ancestry (behind only Pennsylvania and Ohio, two much larger states).
A traditional Christmas is important to the bratwurst-loving populace of Wisconsin. Despite being just the 23rd-largest state by area, the Badger State is the fifth-biggest Christmas tree-producing state. There are nearly 630,000 Christmas trees harvested, accounting for almost 5 percent of the nation's supply. Fir trees are the preferred evergreen in Wisconsin. Balsams, Frasers, Concolors and Douglases are among the most popular Wisconsin varieties.
There are nearly 1,400 Christmas tree farms in Wisconsin, with most clustered in the west and center of the state. The highest Christmas tree-producing county by far in the state is Jackson. The Western Upland county harvests more than 165,000 Christmas trees, the only county producing over 100,000 trees. That ranks Jackson as the 14th-highest producing county in the nation.
Data on acres in production and the number of trees produced is from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2017 Census and represents the latest available. The data were filtered to exclude counties with fewer than one acre in production.