STERLING, Pa. — At Olsommer's Christmas Tree Farm in Wayne County, there's still a little more than a month before opening day, but the owner knows there will be a supply issue this holiday season, and one of the reasons is something that happened four years ago when a disease devastated his farm.
"About four years ago, we had to burn 15,000 Douglas firs, and when we planted, they don't grow in one year where you should be. It takes eight, ten years to grow. We planted them four years ago. They're only about two feet off the ground. That didn't help us. It will later on, but the shortage is now," Don Olsommer said.
The diseased trees affected farms all across Pennsylvania. Olsommer replanted back then, but a lot of farmers here did not.
"A lot of guys my age like to get out of it, too. A lot of them aren't growing any more trees. they're just going out of business."
And now that there are fewer to choose from, Olsommer says there are more people looking, too, and that can be attributed to the pandemic.
"People are coming back from the fake Christmas trees, really. "
Olsommer says with so many people moving here from New York and New Jersey, they're buying real Christmas trees again, or some of them for the first time. That's why the farm in Wayne County had its best year ever last year.
"872 (trees). We usually sell anywhere from 300 to 400."
Despite the shortage, you still don't want to buy your tree too early if you want it to last through Christmas.
"I have people come in and say, 'Oh, I'll put sugar and this in,'" Olsommer said. "I tell them just plain water. H2O, that's all you need."
Olsommer says you should also expect to pay more this holiday season because trees are more expensive, and farmers will likely be paying their employees more. Olsommer's Christmas Tree Farm in Sterling opens the Friday after Thanksgiving.