With bumper crop of Christmas trees in Pa., firs will fly

 A lot in Philadelphia's Northern Liberties neighborhood is the site of Christmas trees on sale before Thanksgiving. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A lot in Philadelphia's Northern Liberties neighborhood is the site of Christmas trees on sale before Thanksgiving. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The end of Thanksgiving means it’s go time for one of Pennsylvania’s biggest industries: Christmas trees.

Pennsylvania is the fourth-largest Christmas tree farming state in the nation. And Jay Bustard of Bustard’s Christmas Trees in Lansdale says he thinks this year looks like a good one in his business.

One reason is good weather. “We didn’t have any frost in the spring, and we had just enough rain to keep the trees well hydrated,” Bustard said. “And we had enough cold weather in the fall.”

Another reason: Younger people seem to like a real tree.

“We have noticed that the younger generation is looking more towards green than artificial or plastic items,” said Bustard, whose family has been growing and selling trees for almost 90 years. “There is a much greater demand from the 20- or 30-year-olds than there had been in the past.”

Bustard says improving economy helps too, although the tree business tends to be pretty steady. Even in good times, people don’t tend to buy more than one tree, he said. “You may see a little bit of a downturn in a bad economy. but basically its fairly inelastic,” said Bustard. “If a person has a 7-foot ceiling, they’re never going to buy a 10-foot tree.”

But that doesn’t mean the industry isn’t affected by the whims of fashion.

“One interesting thing we’re experimenting with are Victorian Christmas trees, bringing the old-fashioned look back,” he said. “The real open tree, that’s got room to decorate, with not a perfect cone shape, a little bit of character — that’s starting to come back.”

Ironically, Bustard said, the old-fashioned look is more expensive because the trees need more trimming as they grow.

Altogether, Pennsylvania will produce about a million Christmas trees this year. One of them is an 18-foot Douglas fir from Carbon County that will spend the holidays standing in the White House.

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