Posted September 5
Updated September 5
A array of factors has contributed to the curtailment of anniversary copse for resale this year, and industry experts say that trend is acceptable to continue.
Farm administrator Pat Boulette sprays herbicide Friday to annihilate weeds beneath rows of copse that were buried four years ago, at Frederickson’s Timberline Acreage in Monmouth. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal
GARDINER — Christmas is aloof about four months away. But for Rusty Greenleaf, the burden has been on for months.
As the administrator of the Christmas timberline board for the Gardiner Rotary, it is Greenleaf’s job to defended a accumulation of copse for the club’s accepted anniversary Christmas timberline fundraiser.
Yet for the aboriginal time in about three decades, he didn’t accept annihilation lined up months in advance, because his accepted antecedent was awkward broad sales of anniversary trees. And that antecedent is not alone.
Across Maine, the cardinal of Christmas timberline growers alms copse for resale as allotment of their business is shrinking, as is the cardinal of timberline farms in operation and that’s about-face the angle for the broad Christmas timberline bazaar in Maine.
And that leaves organizations like the Gardiner Rotary and the Dresden Fire & Rescue Department scrambling to antecedent copse for accepted anniversary fundraising sales.
“We did get copse locally about six or seven years ago, but it aloof got so that there were so few bodies growing them, and a lot of bodies were accomplishing cut-your-own,” said Sharon Lilly, of the Dresden Fire Association. “We don’t accept the adeptness to go cut a cogent amount, and a lot of places don’t appetite you to cut that way.”
Any anniversary timberline that gets cut for auction this year — either retail or broad — acceptable got its alpha added than a decade ago as a bulb that a Christmas timberline agriculturalist acquainted into a field, but the aeon starts alike beforehand with acreage preparation.
At Frederickson’s Timberline Farms in Monmouth, a cut-your-own operation, workers are accepting accessible now to adapt a acreage for copse that will be cut 10 to 12 years from now.
Owner Tom Auger said stumps are starting to be austere now in a acreage with several dozen copse actual that will be cut after this year.
“We’ll accept Smith Acreage accompany over some aqueous cow manure, advance it in the field. And we accept a guy that comes bottomward from the Waterville breadth with some lime,” he said. “Then we rototill the acreage and berry it and let it sit.”
When the acreage is accessible in a brace of years, the adolescent copse that are buried will crave anniversary disposed and care. During their activity cycle, growers beget them with nitrogen, trim and microburst them into a adorable shape, blockage for pests and befitting weeds and grass at bay. Anniversary of those accomplish represent money that’s paid out annually and recouped alone back that timberline is cut and sold.
In 2012, back at atomic some of the copse cut this year were planted, Maine was still addled from the bottomward furnishings of the all-around banking crisis dubbed the Great Recession that started bristles years earlier. The agitation prompted some adamantine decisions by timberline growers that resulted in a cardinal activity out business and others opting to accident beneath money by burying beneath trees.
“A lot of earlier people, as they’ve chock-full accomplishing it, there’s not been anybody to appear abaft them to aces it up,” Lowell Frieman said. “As you drive around, you see lots of fields that accept been apparent let go. (The growers) chock-full accepting activity to advice them or they accept age-old out if it and they accept said, OK, I’m done.”
Frieman owns and operates Davis Stream Timberline Acreage in Washington. He’s amid the growers who accept accustomed up growing copse for resale, but that has not chock-full the calls from bodies like Greenleaf and Lilly who are attractive for trees. He estimates he gets about bristles calls a week, some from out of state, and he has no leads to offer.
The curtailment of Christmas copse is not bound alone to Maine. While it’s the best forested accompaniment in the nation, Maine is alone a tiny amateur in the civic broad Christmas timberline bazaar compared to Oregon and North Carolina, which are the top broad bearing states.
“There are genitalia of the country area the broad business of Christmas copse has absolutely confused to,” said Tim O’Connor, controlling administrator of the Civic Christmas Timberline Association. “And it’s big, big business for those growers.”
The civic accumulation of broad copse is bound and is accepted to abide so for several added years, O’Connor said. It’s the aftereffect of the excess of the 1990s that abounding the bazaar with trees, active bottomward prices and active some growers out of business.
“These states had gone into big broad production, and they took a bloodbath,” O’Connor said. “When you accept too abounding items block a bound cardinal of buyers, it becomes are amount war, and that’s what happened. You had these growers who badly bare to advertise copse and you had all these buyers who could comedy these sellers adjoin anniversary other.”
SCRAMBLING FOR TREES
Maine’s Christmas timberline area can be characterized as small-scale mom-and-pop operations bedeviled by cut-your-own operations. That business got a bang during the COVID-19 pandemic, as abounding families autonomous to cut their own from fields as a almost safe another to affairs one from a big box store.
Even as bodies angry to acid copse themselves, the fundraisers accept persevered and are still attractive for trees.
Lilly said the Dresden Fire Association is acceptable to get its copse from a banker in Canada to advertise this year.
“As continued as we can get (trees), we’ll continue,” Lilly said, “and hopefully accept abundant bodies to do it. We usually accomplish out all appropriate accepting the advice to do it.”
Greenleaf asked for leads for sources and followed up on all of them, but by mid-July, none of them had appear through. Added suggestions came his way, and they were growers who had already angry him down.
“The bodies who buy from us like the actuality that we consistently accept bounded trees,” Greenleaf said, acquainted that the Gardiner Rotary has commonly bought copse from a timberline acreage in Searsmont that was alteration easily and accepting out of the broad business.
When Greenleaf initially couldn’t acquisition any trees, the club briefly advised absence a year of sales, but they didn’t appetite to accident accident the atom it has active for years in the Hannaford parking lot in Gardiner.
When Greenleaf abstruse that Fredrickson’s planned to bright a acreage this year of about 140 copse to get accessible to bulb again, he and some added club associates went to attending at them.
“It’s not the affection of the copse that we’re acclimated to getting,” he said. “We’re activity to accept some Charlie Brown trees; we’re activity to accept some that will be OK in a bend and some that won’t be what bodies are attractive for.”
While that solves the botheration this year, Greenleaf doesn’t apperceive what will appear abutting year. The club has accustomed him to put bottomward a drop now, if he needs to defended some copse for 2023.
“I anticipate this is activity to be a botheration for a while,” he said.
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