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How the national Christmas tree shortage affects Bakersfield

Posted at 11:26 PM, Nov 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-20 02:28:27-05

It wasn’t the sound of jingle bells, but it was just as jolly: Friday, Alpine Christmas Trees in Bakersfield unloaded their special order of spruces this season before officially opening their farm to the public on Black Friday.

With record-breaking temperatures of 117 degrees in Oregon, where owner Chris Maretich said they grow their christmas trees it was Mother Nature, not the Grinch, that stole six weeks of their holiday harvest.

“They don’t start budding out until about April and then start growing until mid-July, then it’s dry enough in Oregon where they stay out but don’t put on any growth, Maretich said. “But this year, the end of June got warm.”

Maretich added that south and west-facing trees got more sun.

“The tree makes its buds this year and then it breaks bud next year, and actually puts that growth on next year. But if you get too much heat on the tree this year, those buds won’t open next year. So you’ll have a tree then on one side that won’t grow as much as it normally would, so it might be a little lopsided.”

According to Maretich, Alpine Christmas Trees will have 14,000 Christmas trees. They’ll have that same number as last year, because they grow. For sellers outsourcing their Christmas trees, it may be more difficult to find what they need.

“Wholesalers are very short,” Maretich said. “There’s people [who buy wholesale], tht just aren’t going to get any trees, or they get half their orders.”

While Alpine's own personal supply isn’t short, their costs have gone up.

“Our trucking costs are going to go up because of fuel, our harvest costs, our helicopter costs, our bill went up another $100 dollars an hour” Maretich said. “We fly all the trees out from the fields where the truckload is. Last year we paid $950. This year, $1,050 for a helicopter.”

Michael Olson of Frosty's Forest in Bakersfield said they grow their trees in Oregon too, facing similar issues of record-breaking temperatures burning the crop and price increases due to inflation.

For their consumers, the cost of the tree will only increase 5 to $10 for certain spruces. At Alpine the price will increase twenty dollars more, but only for trees ten feet and higher, while the rest of the tree prices remain the same. No matter the size Maretich anticipates supply going fast especially with last year’s demand. That’s why he suggested buying the trees within a week of opening day.

“It was insane, everybody wanted a tree now, now, now, so we got swamped early and sold out early. But this year, our last shipments of trees are on the sixth or seventh (of December),” Maretich said. “When they’re gone, they’re gone.”