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Local Christmas tree farmers struggling to compete with national growers, artificial trees as inflation pushes prices up

Christmas tree farmers struggle as inflation pushes costs up
Christmas tree farmers struggle as inflation pushes costs up 02:16

SOUTHOLD, N.Y. -- Many families are getting ready to put up their Christmas tree, but like many other things this holiday season, prices are being pushed up.

Ed Dart's family has cherished its land in Southold for 103 years, half a century as a Christmas tree farm.

"You would think that the Christmas tree industry might be insulated," Dart told CBS2's Jennifer McLogan.

Insulated against inflation? No.

"It's everything. It's the supply chain issues ... It's the increased costs of wages, having a big impact upon farmers like myself," Dart said.

The National Christmas Tree Association says last year, a tree averaged $70. This year, a tree is $80-110.

Mother Nature didn't help, says the Long Island Farm Bureau.

"The drought situation for most of the summer caused farmers to have to irrigate, which uses fuel with high diesel prices," said administrative director Robert Carpenter.

Fuel, seed, fertilizer and another expense -- labor.

Farmers say they can't compete with chains that offer artificial trees, a glut on those since the pandemic with prices actually dropping, or the national growers that prune and shape with automated, mechanized machines.

"But the little guys like me, we hand-prune them and we create a much more natural look," Dart said. "The fact is it just takes ten years to grow a tree from a little seedling to harvestable size."

"There's nothing better than cutting your own tree," one customer said. 

"I like the smell, and you can decorate them so nicely," another customer said.

"Choosing their own Christmas tree is one of a few things that multi-generational family groups can do together," Dart said.

Dart is trying something new, wondering if his colorized tree innovation will pay off.

"It's time to break out and get yourself a purple Christmas tree," he said.

McLogan found, at multiple farms, customers can save by paying cash and cutting their own tree.

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