High demand for Christmas trees has Canadians looking for alternatives
TORONTO -- Christmas tree farmers across Canada and the United States are reporting an increase in demand for evergreens, compounding a supply shortage and prompting Canadians to look for alternatives this holiday season.
Shirley Brennan, executive director of Christmas Tree Farmers of Ontario, told CTV’s Your Morning that tree farmers anticipated a 15 per cent increase in demand this year, in line with annual increases over the last five years.
However, she now says that demand has spiked beyond expectations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We already knew there was going to be an increase, but this year, a lot of families are staying home, the Christmas tree gives them hope for the season because for nine months they haven't really done a lot, and we're seeing a lot of new people come out to farms and get that Christmas tree," Brennan explained Monday.
While tree farmers did expect to see an increase, Brennan said various factors, including the 2008 recession and climate change, have made it difficult for them to keep up with demand.
"Some farmers may not have planted as many trees, some farmers that would have expanded, chose not to because of financial unrest, so that impacted it," she said.
Brennan added that Mother Nature has not been tree farmers' "best friend" over the past 10 years.
"We had the wildfires in the west, and we had a major freeze in the east in June [of 2018] that impacted large mature trees that would have been at the marketable stage when that happened," Brennan said.
On average, Christmas trees take about 10 years to fully mature and farmers plan their business decades at a time, Brennan said. With farmers only expecting to be in business for 10-15 years, she said this makes it difficult for them to restock when there is an increase in demand.
To help combat this, Brennan says tree farmers need to start talking to younger people about getting involved in the business.
"We are seeing a lot of that decrease was because people aged out, they didn't have succession plans to include family members that maybe don't want to go into it, they didn't have family members. So our next step is to start talking to young people," she said.
However, Brennan doesn’t necessarily mean Millennials or Generation Z. She explained that a lot of Christmas tree farms in Ontario right now are actually those getting ready to retire.
"This is their retirement plan so let’s start talking to those people, so that it doesn't become a real issue," Brennan said.
CHRISTMAS TREE ALTERNATIVES
For those who can't find a Christmas tree this year, don't want to go through the work of decorating a tree or simply don't have the space for one, sewing and craft expert Denise Wild told CTV's Your Morning there are alternatives.
Wild says one option is to decorate a rustic ladder with Christmas tree ornaments and then lean it against a wall.
"It's just a really simple way to put your presents around and you still get your favorite decorations out but you got a completely different look," Wild explained in an interview on Monday.
Wild says Canadian can also forgo the traditional Christmas tree set up entirely and instead hang lights on a wall in the shape of a tree. She said the do-it-yourself technique is "super easy" and only took her about five minutes to make.
She explained that the lights can be hung using removable sticky hooks so as not to damage the wall. The only requirement is that the design be by an outlet, she added.
"If you don't want a tree I actually did a shooting star in my living room too so do whatever you want with those lights and just go crazy," Wild said.
Building off of that same technique, Wild said there is also the option to craft a Christmas tree on a wall using green Bristol board and other coloured paper.
She explained that the Bristol board can be cut diagonally into triangles and then layered over one another using painters tape or masking tape in the shape of a tree.
"You can use glittery paper too for your decorations… The little kids will love being involved, you can even have them make their own little decorations to put on it," Wild said.
Wild's final option for a tree alternative involves looking at objects in one’s home differently, she says.
Wild explained that anything big and tall, such as a houseplant or a lamp, can be decorated to look like a Christmas tree.
"It doesn't have to Christmasy, just anything that's tall. Just wrap it around with lights and throw your presents at the bottom," she said.