Thomas Miller (left) and Ian Morris loaded the Geisbrecht Tree Farm lot, at 5871 248th St. in Langley, with thousands of Christmas trees in readiness for this week’s opening on Dec. 1. (Bob Groeneveld/Langley Advance)

Langley grows past Christmas tree shortage

Despite issues elsewhere, local growers insist tree stock is fine in much of the Lower Mainland.

By Bob Groeneveld/Special to the Langley Advance

Anyone looking for Christmas trees in Langley this year is bound to find plenty, despite the shortages that are reportedly expected to plague other places.

“We are not going to have any problems meeting people’s needs,” said John Cowie of Arts Nursery in Port Kells, though he added, “It just has been more difficult finding trees this year.”

He has had to source eight suppliers this year, instead of “the usual two or three,” and has had to go farther afield than usual to stock his lot.

“Instead of buying mostly from Oregon and Washington and B.C., we’ve actually had to branch into Ontario,” he said.

There are plenty of locally grown trees, like Douglas firs, he said, but the types of trees he normally gets from south of the border – the Noble, Grand, and Nordmann firs – have been harder to find.

“The local growers… we have lots of Douglas fir available this year,” agreed Al Neufeld of Fernridge Christmas Tree Forest at 2828 208th St.

His operation is one of many in Langley that rely on their own trees or stock up from other Lower Mainland growers.

“Grand fir is our other main tree,” he said, “and we have a few Fraser fir, as well.”

“We are wholesaling some to a couple of the local nurseries in town,” said Neufeld.. “Mainly the Douglas fir, that’s where we have some extras in numbers.”

Douglas firs are the fastest growing trees, taking five to six years to reach salable maturity, while Nobel and Grand firs, he said, take “another year or two to get to that six-foot height.”

Ken Geisbrecht of Geisbrecht’s Tree Farm grows his own Noble, Fraser, Grand, and Douglas firs for sale off his lot at 5871 248th St.

“It took a lot of extra irrigation this year,” he said, but he’ll have no problem providing all of his usual customers’ needs for Christmas trees.

“We always have some available stock. We’ve got lots of trees. We’ve got a big farm and we’ve been here a long time.”

Geisbrecht’s father bought the property in 1963 and began selling trees in 1968. The farm will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year.

Just down the road, at Churchland Christmas Tree farm, at 4726 248th St., Wendy McGuire has had to “take a sort of different route this year” because her usual suppliers were unable to provide her with the usual stock numbers.

“But it’s not going to affect me so much this year,” she said. “We’re going to be cutting our trees fresh off our fields.”

“We used to be a wholesaler,” she said, “but we don’t have trees for wholesale at all now. That’s what we’re selling off the lot.”

Like the others, McGuire doesn’t think that the fires that raged through the Interior and the United States are responsible for any tree shortages.

Drought a few summers ago may have had a hand, more so than the past dry summer, by affecting crops of young trees and seedlings that would be reaching marketable size now and for the next couple of years.

But for those who stock their lots with trees from south of the border, the American economy is probably a bigger issue.

“Eight or nine years ago, when these trees would have been planted, there was a recession going on in the States, so they didn’t plant as many, and suppliers shut down,” explained Cowie.

“And now that the economy has picked up again, the demand is really high for trees, but there’s not as much supply,” he added.

“The local trees, there’s no problem,” said Neufeld, “but for some of the big box stores that might import trees from the States, the U.S. dollar would make that less desirable for them.”

Coupled with real tree shortages reported in the U.S., he said, “They don’t have excess amount of trees to get rid of in the Canadian market.”

So while there isn’t a shortage at local tree, the overall result is fewer trees in the market, he explained, “Which usually results in prices going up.”

For a comprehensive listing of Lower Mainland retail and U-cut tree outlets, visit the BC Christmas Tree Council website.

READ: Langley grower: Christmas magic starts with choosing just the right tree

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