Christmas tree farms upbeat despite economy

Fri Nov 21, 2008 3:39pm EST
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada's annual Christmas tree harvest is under way with farmers hoping that people's desire to maintain a holiday tradition will again override their worries about a slowing economy.

The number of trees sold has not fallen dramatically in past economic downturns, said Fred Somerville, Ontario's largest tree grower, who has not seen a drop in shipments to retailers so far this year.

"We've found that people tend to put away their financial woes and enjoy their family and Christmas. People who get a Christmas tree tend to still get them," said Somerville, whose family has been growing trees since 1950.

Trees such as Fraser firs and Scots pines are harvested by commercial growers from mid-November to early December, when the trees are going dormant for winter and will retain water better after being cut.

There were about 2,400 farms growing Christmas trees in 2006, with the biggest production in Quebec, Atlantic Canada and Ontario, according to Statistic Canada.

Buying a tree may be a discretionary purchase, but Arthur Loewen a grower in British Columbia said his experience is that people still want one at home even they are planning to put fewer gifts under it.

"I think it's that sense of tradition," said Loewen.

Loewen said growers are not ignoring the weakening economy, and he is keeping his prices the same as last year.   Continued...