While dry weather killed off trees in other states, growers across Minnesota say they'll have an ample supply this year.
Shoppers rejoice -- there's no mad dash needed for one holiday item this year: the perfect Christmas tree.
While droughts and wildfires have wiped out Christmas trees in places like Texas and Oklahoma, Minnesota growers say it's a prime, plentiful year for lush, green Christmas trees locally.
"I think they're the best-looking trees I've ever seen in the 30 years I've been growing trees," said Jan Donelson, a Clear Lake grower and executive director of the Minnesota Christmas Tree Association. "It really was the best year ever to grow trees."
Like other states, Minnesota weathered a dry fall that curbed production of some crops. But trees remained in tip-top shape, Donelson said, because the dry spell followed a late, wet spring mixed with a mild summer and a winter absent so far of a deep frost.
"It's refreshing to have a year where you don't have any weather issues," she said.
This follows some difficult years for growers in Minnesota, which ranks 10th in the nation for Christmas tree production, according to the trade group. Between the down economy and turnover as farmers retire, the number of tree growers statewide has shrunk the past few years from 500 to about 350, said Pat Olive, a tree grower in Stacy.
While she said saplings may have struggled in this year's dry weather, that is likely to cause only a small shortage of trees in seven or eight years.
In the meantime, Ryan Bartz of Premium Quality Trees in Oak Grove said he expects to sell upward of 70,000 trees this year. The state's largest tree grower will ship to customers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Canada and Colorado, but the unseasonably warm weather is spurring plenty of local business, too. Bartz said customers are coming out earlier, hunting for the right tree dressed in T-shirts and light jackets.
"Usually there's snow on the ground and it's miserable," he said. "It's just more enjoyable to cut a fresh tree now."
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141