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Christmas tree farms say drought is causing tree shortage

By Casey Albritton

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    PINELLAS COUNTY, Florida (WFTS) — Christmas tree suppliers in the Tampa Bay Area are struggling with their tree supply this holiday.

In previous years, there have been issues with inflation and worker shortages, but this year, the cause is the weather.

It’s the sound of cutting a real Christmas tree that for many, brings holiday cheer.

Families in Largo say stopping by North Star Wisconsin Christmas Trees isn’t just a shopping experience.

“We like having a real tree. Her family members have discussed getting a fake tree for the few years because they are getting really expensive, but we like having the real tree, the real smell,” said AJ Payne, a customer.

It’s a tradition that started back in 1987.

“We take care of families of generations. People have been coming to us. They bring their kids. We make their Christmas,” said Richard Salzman, owner of North Star Christmas Trees.

“Seeing the same people every year it’s really nice. I know they probably won’t recognize me, but they will recognize my mom because she comes every year, and I was really little when I started coming here,” said Mary Margaret Mason, another customer.

AJ Payne and Mary Margaret Mason picked out an eight-foot tree at the farm.

“Putting it on top of his car is really funny too. Just the whole process of it is really fun,” said Mason.

Although the tent looks filled with towering green pines, it wasn’t an easy journey to prepare for the holiday season.

“In Wisconsin, we had a severe drought, and over the past five years, there’s been a nationwide tree shortage, so it’s been hard to supplement what we don’t grow,” said Salzman.

Salzman said the nationwide drought has killed at least 5,000 of his trees this year.

Employees here at North Star Christmas Trees say the trees that have been hard to find are really tall trees.

The company also said wildfires out West and a driver shortage have also impacted their supply.

“I spent actually extra time in North Carolina and reached out to some old growers that I knew, and actually one of the sons had taken over, and I got with him for a couple days, and we ended up getting trees from them. And my other grower helped me out,” said Salzman.

“Hopefully, the drought doesn’t affect them too much because we do like coming here each year, and it’s become a tradition for us, so we will keep our fingers crossed,” said Payne.

Salzman said despite the shortage, his team is picking up fresh trees every couple of weeks to make sure his loyal customers get the Christmas they deserve.

“Seeing families smile, being happy, and being part of their Christmas,” said Salzman.

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