Manitoba Daily

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Manitoba’s Christmas tree farms are being harmed by drought

Key takeaways:

  • Drought has decimated some local Christmas tree farms, putting a long-standing holiday tradition in jeopardy some.
  • On their 30-40-acre site, they mostly grow Scotch Pine and White Spruce trees. 

Drought conditions have wreaked havoc on some local Christmas tree farms, putting a long-standing holiday tradition in peril for some.

For Country Pines, based in Tyndall, Man., three years of missing spring rains and summer drought have harmed tree growth and reduced the number of accessible trees.

“I should have at least a foot to a foot and a half of growing on my trees, and if I’m only getting six inches out of them due to the moisture in the ground,” said Michael Kisiloski, Country Pines’ principal operator.

The consequence is a crop that is one-third the size of a normal year, and their backup order of pre-cut trees is still on the way.

Also read: Manitoba business organizations are looking to expand their trade links with Nunavut

Country Pines isn’t the only one. Kowalke Tree Farm, which is also in the vicinity, announced on social media that it would not be operating this year.

“The drought this summer impacted our tree harvest particularly hard, and we don’t have enough trees available to make the journey feasible,” the message continues.

However, there is still hope for a locally grown tree. CD Trees, located south of Steinbach, has a more attractive situation.

Cliff Freund and his wife started selling trees in 1996 after planting their first trees in 1990. They also enhance their supply by importing trees that do not grow well in the province, including Balsam and Fraser firs.

On their 30-40-acre site, they mostly grow Scotch Pine and White Spruce trees. According to Freund, once the young trees reach a height of approximately a foot or two, they are fairly hardy.

He said the trees’ growth may suffer a little due to the dry weather, but it’s not a significant concern.

“The pines normally grow more than they need to because we chop them back to get them to grow full,” Freund explained. “We have to trim back a foot and a half some years and a foot or maybe six inches this year.”

Manitoba's Christmas tree farms are being harmed by drought

Because spruce is slower growth, it may be pushed back a year.

According to Freund, wholesalers and tree farms that rely largely on imports will be disproportionately affected by the probable lack of trees.

A frost in the northern U.S. producing area damaged new growth and reduced tree supply, forcing some suppliers to limit sales to prior years’ levels, and certain varieties of trees were no longer accessible.

According to Kisiloski, demand for local tree farms has been increasing, while the number of local growers has decreased over time, from 15 to five.

Country Pines has over 7,000 trees in various stages of development, but due to the current weather, the mortality rate of its seedlings has been significant.

To stay afloat, Kisiloski says he’ll have to rethink his strategy and hire people to water the trees on his property, which he previously left to Mother Nature.

Kisiloski explained, “I can’t afford to lose the number of seedlings out there because I won’t have a farm left.” “It takes 10 years to properly grow a tree, and if I have two years of adequate moisture, the tree will establish itself and take off,” Kisiloski explained.

On Saturday, both producers will open their doors to the public.

Source: CTV News

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