Drought affecting bottom line at Minnesota Christmas tree farms
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During this hot and dry summer, water is a hot commodity. At B&J Evergreen, the thousands of Christmas trees planted are thirsting for more.
"Yep, that’s definitely drier than we would like," B&J Evergreen owner Trent Johnson said.
Johnson carries a soil tester with him just about everywhere.
"You can see how that topsoil just feathers out," he said.
But a few steps away, 2-year-old trees have been watered.
"The probe goes in nice and easy because the moisture loosens up the soil and there is definitely more moisture in that," Johnson said.
He created a water rig to get through the rows of young trees to hit them directly with water and keep them alive in conditions like this.
"With fill time, we can water about 1,400 trees in an hour, on average," he shared.
Watering has cut into the budget significantly this year, not only here but on farms across the state.
"On our small trees, we have had to water about 50% more, and on our big trees we have tried to get them once or twice — our market trees — which typically we wouldn’t need to do," Johnson said.
Still, he’s lost many of the seedlings he planted in April.
"Where we have planted new seedlings, we are probably at about a 25% loss, but that’s better than a 100% loss," he said.
Christmas trees take about eight to 10 years to mature and go to market, so any potential shortage won’t be seen for several years. Still, Johnson is staying positive while doing what he loves.
"The water hasn’t come as much as we would like, but Christmas is going to come, and there will be celebrations," he said.
Johnson says he keeps his trees priced affordably, with anything under 9 feet listed at about $60. But the lack of rain means more cost to farmers to irrigate, and that will cut into profits this year. It remains to be seen if that could affect tree prices for consumers this winter.
Johnson says the best way to support growers is to buy real trees and buy local this winter.