Midwestern Ontario tree farm prepares for busy season

(© Can Stock Photo / sparkia)

The owners of the Outback Tree Farm in Listowel are starting to get busy as people are preparing to get their Christmas tree, especially with word of a shortage of trees this year.

Tim Diebel said the shortage actually began years ago.

“The shortage really started back in 2008, when the economics weren’t very good, so tree farmers weren’t putting as much money back into their crop to grow,” he explained.

He added that one of the issues for tree growers is predicting demand.

“It takes roughly eight to ten years to produce a Christmas tree, and ten years ago maybe only a thousand trees were planted. Instead of now, with our production numbers up to 3,000 trees a year,” he said.

“According to Stats Canada, in 2011 to 2021, 20,000 acres of potential Christmas tree farm basically was lost to other crops due to retirement of Christmas farmers in that area, so the farms were sold, and put back in to conventional cash crop farms,” he added.

“The increased housing market too, with new homes being built in subdivisions, has taken a lot of trees. Like we’ll about 500 spaded trees to use as landscaping trees, that could have went as Christmas tree,” he continued.

He added the pandemic exhausted their supply of of cut your own trees, so the option for people to chop down their own tree is on hold.

“When COVID was on people started to really value family time and different outdoor activities, and they actually cut over the two years of COVID restrictions they basically cut every 6 foot and taller tree that we had on the farm for Christmas trees,” he pointed out.

The Outback Tree Farm usually sells about 300 pre cut trees every year, and another 700 wholesale.  They have increased their crop, so they will be able to sell about 3,000 trees in total annually in the future. Tim runs the farm along with his wife Christine. Tree prices at the farm range from $85. to $165.