High Demand, Low Inventory at Christmas Tree Farms

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — While industries are struggling to find customers or workers, Christmas tree farms seem to be evergreen.

Across the Mahoning Valley, these tree farms have seen another strong year, with some considering closing up shop early this year while others have had a steady flow of customers.

Although Pioneer Trails Tree Farm in Poland advertised it would remain open through Dec. 19, the company had to consider “closing earlier because sales have been strong and additional tree cutting cuts into next year’s inventory,” says owner Mary Jan Perdulla.

Its fields are closed and it is only selling pre-cut trees, according to PioneerTrailsTreeFarm.com.

Typically, Pioneer Trails purchases bigger trees to supplement its stock, but there are fewer trees at the wholesale level this year, Perdulla says. Closing early this year protects next year’s inventory, as people have been choosing shorter trees measuring around 5 feet tall, she says.

In Trumbull County, 7P Trees in Hubbard is “probably having the best year we could have. We would have a better year if we had more trees. But so many people bought trees last year,” says owner Mike Pieton says. 

As Pieton greets customers and guides them, he encourages them to cut the taller trees, giving the smaller ones another season to grow.

“One thing we ask, if you’re looking for a 7-footer, don’t cut down a 7-footer. We have a lot of tall trees out there that are barren on the bottom, restricting trees growing next to them,” Pieton says. “Cut your 7-foot tree from waist-high. You’ll still get a beautiful tree and harvest a tree that wouldn’t get harvested otherwise.”

While this year is busy, it doesn’t compare to last year for Pieton.

“Sales were off the charts last year because of COVID-19,” Pieton says. “People wanted something positive. They were exhausted from civil unrest, politics and COVID. We had the busiest and best season last year.”

Staying steady is the 100-acre McConnell’s Nursery and Christmas Tree Farm in New Castle, Pa.

“We’ve been busy,” says Jen Shorts, whose family owns the tree farm. Each year McConnell’s opens the weekend after Thanksgiving. 

The years predating the pandemic were busy, and this year is no different, Shorts says.

“We’re a smaller tree farm,” Shorts says, which has an impact on the steady flow of customers.

“We’re seeing a lot of people wanting tall trees,” she says, adding she gets a lot of calls for people searching for trees that measure more than 10 feet tall.

Perdulla says Pioneer has had more first-time tree purchasers for the second year in a row, likely due to the pandemic. In 2020, people wanted to get outside.

Jake and Laura Prill of Howland at 7P Tree Farm in Hubbard.

“People were anxious to get out and do an activity that was COVID-safe,” Perdulla says. “There were no masks needed because it’s all outdoors.”

McConnell’s is also seeing a lot of first-time customers this year, Shorts notes.

People are just as excited to be out, but also are taking part in traditions that were canceled last year, such as Pioneer’s horse-drawn wagon ride and seeing Santa at 7P Trees.

McConnell’s has had a high demand for balled and burlapped trees, while there have been inquiries for those at 7P trees.

“We are old-school,” Pieton says. “It’s a process” that includes a tire, burlap and flipping the tree, he said. He’ll give people guidance and let them borrow the tools if they want a balled tree. All customers have to do is bring the muscle, he says.

Looking for trees recently at 7P Trees were Jake and Laura Prill of Howland. They went to the Hubbard tree farm after their usual place in Trumbull County was closed for the season.

“It’s the smell (of the pine). It’s a tradition,” Laura Prill says, adding they have a 12-year-old daughter who helps decorate the family tree each year.

Pictured at top: Mike Pieton, owner of 7P Trees in Hubbard, encourages people to cut the larger trees but at different heights from the stump to give inventory a chance to grow for next year.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.