By Deb Everts
Real Christmas tree sales were very good this year. The demand was so great that Harold Hill, Jr. had to close the doors early at his Hill’s Christmas Tree Farm on Dec. 16.
Hill said he has seen a definite increase in real Christmas tree sales over the last couple of years. He said he was still getting calls from people wanting to go out and cut trees long after his closing date.
“We harvested as many as we could this year,” he said. “This farm can produce only so many trees a year, which is a significant number, and we hit our limit.”
He said their biggest seller is a 7- to 8-foot tree but, in the last three or four years, they’ve noticed a big market heading for the larger 10- to 15-foot trees.
By the second weekend this year, they were out of those big trees.
“It takes 15 to 18 years to grow a tree up to that 12- to 14-foot range, so I can cut only so many a year,” he said. “When I’m out, I’m out, and I don’t cut anymore because then I’m hurting myself for the next year.”
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, most people are buying real Christmas Trees. The organization which collects Christmas Tree sales data determined that around 27 million trees real trees were sold in 2017. That number is up 10-percent this year.
Hill said the last two years have been the best for tree sales at his business. He said it’s been since the stock market has gone up and the economy has picked up.
And, it isn’t just with his business; he thinks it’s with other businesses, as well.
“I think people have more money in their pocket right now, so they can do more things,” he said. “The other thing is, I hear people say things like, ‘I can’t stand looking at that plastic tree anymore,’ or, ‘You can’t decorate a piece of plastic.’
“The thing of it is, too, a real tree gives people a variety from year to year,” Hill continued. “We have eight different varieties of trees up here, so one year they can have a blue spruce, the next year they might have a Fraser fir or something different.”
Hill said he’s noticed a lot of younger people coming to his farm with their families and trying to make a family tradition out of picking out and cutting their own tree together. He said it’s so much more meaningful than to go to a big box store and pick up a plastic tree.
“When they come to our farm, I’ve got an old ‘52 8N Ford [tractor] that we hook onto one of the wagons to bring the trees out. If we’re not too busy, we’ll let people ride with us, so they get to experience bringing their tree back from the woods — just like in the old days,” he said. “We try to make it a nice experience for them. We have free hot chocolate and cookies in our barn. Mrs. Hill makes about a thousand Snickerdoodles.”
Hill said they’ve been planting Christmas trees on his farm since 1982. When the trees grew large enough to sell, they opened up for their first year, in 1991. They began selling trees from a small 8-by-12 foot shed to four barns on two farms — the main farm on Belscher Road and the second on Genesee Road.
According to Hill, there are 18,000 trees on his two farms, and it takes anywhere from 8 to 10 years to grow a tree. He said it isn’t something he can put in the ground in the spring, like corn that grows the same season.
“I’ve ordered 2,000 new trees to plant on two farms in the spring,” he said. “You gotta remember, we will lose 10- to 15-percent of the seedlings that we planted last spring to drought, excess water and disease. Where that baby tree died, we will replant a second time.”
People shopping for real Christmas trees have five tree farms in the Springville area to choose from, according to Hill. For a detailed listing of Western New York’s “choose-and-cut” Christmas tree farms, visit online at pickyourownchristmastree.org.
Hill’s Christmas Tree Farm is a family-owned and operated “choose and cut” tree farm offering a variety of trees including Canaan Fir, Concolor Fir, Fraser Fir, Grand Fir, Blue Spruce and Black Hills Spruce. They also have an assortment of exotic trees. The farm is located at 13214 Belscher Road. For more information, call 592-5096.