Story and photos by Mike Tripp, contributor
Dennis Beck of Harrisonburg carries the handsaw while he and his wife, Daniela Beck, search a hillside at Ostlund Christmas Tree Farm in Singers Glen for that perfect holiday tree.
“We’re looking for something that will hold its needles the whole season,” Dennis explained.
“It’s not too big,” Daniela added. “And will smell really strong for a long time.”
“Oh! And it has boughs strong enough to hold our some of our hefty ornaments,” said Dennis.
For more 50 years, live Christmas trees have been a staple in their home, and this year’s short supply won’t stop them.
Several rows away, 6-year-old Autumn Swartz of Hinton pulls a tree sled uphill behind parents Ryan and Ashley Swartz.
Braelynn Swartz, 11, joins sister Annalisa Swartz, 7.
The pair weaves in and out of the tree, their destination already plotted.
“We came the weekend before Thanksgiving and searched the whole field for the tree the kids wanted,” said Ashley. “[The] Ostlunds sent out a message that said they had really limited inventory this year and to mark your tree early.”
They did that, but waited a while to cut it.
“Because it’s real, it doesn’t last and look pretty if you get it that far in advance,” Ashley continued.
There are several reasons that trees are scarce this year, including a downward trend in plantings a decade ago and a subsequent drought. It takes eight to 10 years for a Christmas tree to mature.
More recently, supply chain disruptions have not spared the tree industry, and record sales last year – when so many people stayed put for the holidays – led to early harvest of trees that otherwise would have kept growing until now.
In summary: a perfect storm for a 2021 Christmas tree shortage.
The Swartz family made the most of their outing, posing for family photos in front of the tree, and then taking turns drawing the handsaw back and forth through the trunk.
Braelynn and Annalisa worked together to load it onto their sled and pull it back downhill.
The Harris family also considers it something of an event for their small family.
Tom Harris of Broadway used the shaker to shake away any stray needs.
“And bugs,” added Tom.
Then he ran it through the netting as 5-year-old Willow watched.
Wife Brittany Harris and their friend, Angela Golladay, helped pull the tree through, freshly bound for the trip home.
“We actually have our own Christmas tree farm,” said Tom. “Willow’s Tree Farm. [But] we don’t have trees big enough yet.”
“So, we’ve been going to a different tree farm in the area each year to get a Christmas tree.”
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