A ‘record year’ for Christmas tree sales on the North Fork

When a fellow Christmas tree farm owner who had run low on trees for sale told Stacey Soloviev of Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm that he was sending customers over to her Cutchogue business Sunday, she figured she would be looking at an additional 50 cars or so. She got a lot more than expected.

“Within an hour, I mean, I don’t even know how to say it, but it was like the gates of hell opened,” Ms. Soloviev said of the throng that came through, looking for trees. “We were in shock, absolute shock.”

Welcome to the Great Christmas Tree Rush of 2020.

Finding a Christmas tree to buy on the North Fork may not be so easy right now. Trees are flying away as if they were tied onto the back of Santa’s sleigh. In some cases, customers are driving in from western Long Island and New York City and buying multiple trees. One may attribute this to a variety of factors: a swollen population in Southold Town, it’s a family activity for the COVID-19-fatigued looking for a fun outlet to take their minds off a global pandemic, nostalgia for holiday seasons of the past, fear of a second-wave shutdown, a national shortage of Christmas trees.

“We just can’t grow enough trees to meet the demand.”

Joe Shipman

The day after Thanksgiving has typically been regarded as opening day of the Christmas tree season. That’s how it had been.

Ms. Soloviev opened Santa’s for business the two Saturdays before Thanksgiving. With plenty of hand sanitizer and masks on hand for safety protocols, she was all set up and ready.

Or so she thought.

Her farm was filled to capacity both days. Ms. Soloviev said Santa’s probably sold 300 to 500 trees before Thanksgiving. Asked Wednesday how many trees she has sold for the year, she answered, “It could be 3,000, and we’re in what, the beginning of December, and I’m going to sell out.”

A post on Dart’s Christmas Tree Farm’s Facebook page summed things up for that Southold business’ unprecedented year with two words. “SOLD OUT” was stamped over a photo of Christmas trees.

Because of an “overwhelming amount of calls,” those phoning Shamrock Christmas Tree Farm in Mattituck were encouraged to visit its website and Facebook page for information.

“Sales are very strong; getting the product is a problem,” Shamrock owner Joe Shipman said. “There is a shortage of trees across the country.”

This is Shamrock’s 32nd year in existence and the 26th year in which it has cut trees grown on its property, said Mr. Shipman. “We just don’t have a big enough farm to meet the demand for people to come out and cut their own trees so we’re limited to what we can sell,” he said. “I wish I had a hundred acres here but I don’t. I have about 22 acres and it is what it is. We just can’t grow enough trees to meet the demand.”

Mr. Shipman couldn’t say how many trees he has sold. What he did say was: “If I had more trees, it could have been a record. If I could find more pre-cut trees it would have been a record.”

Kim Krupski, owner of Krupski Farms in Peconic, can understand why there may be a reluctance to grow Christmas trees. “It takes so long to grow a tree, I mean like seven years before you have a marketable tree, depending on the variety, and then you need the acreage,” she said. “You’re tying up that acreage for seven years for a four-week season, really.”

Ms. Krupski didn’t have a count on trees sold at her farmstand this year, but said it was “definitely a record year.”

Not that she has been necessarily surprised. This fall saw similar high traffic for apple and pumpkin picking.

“It really is correlating with the rest of the year,” Ms. Krupski said. “We’ve got this surge on the East End in real estate, so that’s transferring into pumpkins and produce and Christmas trees.”

Mr. Shipman predicted next year’s Christmas tree season will be even busier, but “I’ll never forget this year.”