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11/17/2018 4:32:00 PM
Drought of six years ago hurts 2018 Christmas tree supply

Dave Gong, Journal Gazette

A drought that struck northeast Indiana six years ago has had an effect on the number of trees available from local farms, two Christmas tree growers said Friday.

But that doesn't mean it's time for holiday revelers to panic, Judy Reifenberg of St. Joe Christmas Tree Farm said. 

“The suppliers, either on our farm or those that we bring in as precuts, we talk to them way, way early,” Reifenberg said. “We've got a good little network.” 

The number of Christmas tree suppliers is dwindling nationwide, Reifenberg said, as many tree farmers are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. That, coupled with an aging population of Christmas tree growers, means there are fewer suppliers to buy from. Plus, Reifenberg said, it's difficult to anticipate what kinds of trees the public is going to want seven to 12 years in advance. It takes that long for a tree to reach the proper height for use as a Christmas tree.

“For the Fort Wayne area, Allen County, Wells County, DeKalb County, Noble County and Van Wert County, the No. 1 choice by far is the Frasier Fur,” Reifenberg said. “Ten years ago it was Scotch Pine.” 

Between the trees grown on the property and a large number of pre-cut trees, Reifenberg said she feels good about this year's supply. There will be a good selection for families gearing up for the holiday season. 

“Since the (2012) drought, we've been struggling to have enough trees in our field to cut,” Reifenberg said. “This year we feel like we're going to pull out of it.” 

The 2012 drought had a heavy impact on Koontz Tree Farm, the only other Christmas three farm in the Fort Wayne area.

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