Wisconsin Christmas Tree Growers Hope For Busy Season During Pandemic

As More People Stay Home For The Holidays, Tree Growers Expect Residents To Seek Out A Real Tree This Winter

Christmas trees, cutting, sawing, nursery, balsam fir, pine
John Minchillo/AP Photo

Wisconsin Christmas tree growers are preparing for a busy season as more residents decide to stay home for the holidays because of the coronavirus.

Ed Steigerwaldt, owner of Steigerwaldt Tree Farms in Tomahawk, said many growers are hoping the boom seen at garden centers this spring and apple orchards this fall will carry over to the Christmas tree market.

“Many growers expect that we’re going to have a really good retail season because we anticipate more and more people are going to be at home,” Steigerwaldt said. “There may not be so much of the traveling and whatever, so people want to have a really good home experience.”

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Steigerwaldt said his business and many others are making some adjustments to how they interact with customers at tree lots. In addition to wearing masks and social distancing, Steigerwaldt said his employees will no longer be doing tree set-up in customers’ homes.

“We will deliver them at their driveways or at the front doors, but we’re not going in,” Steigerwaldt said. “It’s all safety minded. We want to give as much service as we can, but we don’t want to be inside houses.”

Steigerwaldt said he’s also encouraging customers to avoid traditionally busy times by coming in the mornings or evenings on weekdays, instead of during the weekend.

Greg Hann, owner of Hann’s Christmas Farm in Oregon, Wisconsin, said he’s had customers coming out to his farm since early November to cut down their own tree, many of whom are first-time customers.

Hann said he thinks the experience and nostalgia of buying a real tree will draw in people who have been using synthetic trees. And he doesn’t think the financial hardship caused by the pandemic will keep people from spending.

“Christmas is a very emotional time where people will open their purse strings,” Hann said. “It’s such a feel-good holiday that we are not cutting corners on. We’ve stayed home, we’ve cut corners — we’re not doing it at Christmas.”

Hann, who is public relations manager for the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association, said his farm has had an easier time finding seasonal employees this year by hiring people who previously worked at restaurants or other service industry jobs.

But as the number of coronavirus cases continue to surge in the state, Hann said some producers are choosing to sit this season out for fear of another stay-at-home order.

“I’ve had some lots that say they will not take the risk of pre-cutting some trees and they have 200 or 300 trees sitting on a lot and risk that the governor will shut the state down,” Hann said.

He said those growers will likely be able to sell this year’s crop of trees in 2021, but they will still feel the impact of lost income this winter.

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