Severe-to-Extreme Drought Plays ‘Grinch' in Christmas Tree Crop for Mass. Farmers

It takes nearly a decade for Christmas trees to grow, so this year's losses will take time to make up

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One of the worst droughts in Massachusetts state history has made it difficult for area Christmas tree farmers to plant, grow and harvest trees.

Richard Luks grows more than a dozen types of trees and has lost more than 1,000 trees planted this spring. He said that adds up to a 95% loss. Luks doesn’t have an irrigation system and depends on mother nature to water his farm.

This "tops or the second top worst year that we ever had," he said.

It takes nearly a decade for Christmas trees to grow, so the loss will take a significant amount of time to make up. But the farmer of six decades remains optimistic and said, “we’re trying to make it up”.

This year’s summer season was the fourth driest on record for Boston, and extreme drought plagues areas as far west as Worcester County. Areas of Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts are also in extreme drought.

“Like any other business, there's an ongoing learning process,” said Tim O’Connor, the head of the National Christmas Tree Farm Association. He said farmers are well aware of the impact of climate change, and are "identifying trees that grow quicker, trees that can grow with less water, less inputs, hotter climates."

Despite a record year for inflation and overhead costs, drought, and the loss of hundreds of trees that are ending up in discard piles, Luks said he’s keeping his prices fair.

For those that choose real Christmas trees, as opposed to artificial, Luks and other area tree farmers recommend tagging trees early this year due to limited supply.

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