Bucking a trend of shortages in many parts of the United States, suburban residents are not having a problem finding a live Christmas tree.
No less an authority than the National Christmas Tree Association has declared that demand is outpacing supply and leading to price hikes of 5 percent to 10 percent -- a situation rooted in the Great Recession.
However, suburban Christmas tree supplies are healthy and prices holding steady, according to an informal survey of significant sellers. Only large balsam fir trees were reported to be in short supply in one place.
Wheaton Park District's Cosley Zoo started with a typical supply of about 2,400 Christmas trees for its annual fundraising sale that began Nov. 24 and runs through Dec. 31.
Cosley Zoo Director Sue Wahlgren, who's handled the tree sale for all of its 34 years, said she's familiar with this year's shortage in many sections of the country. She said it helps that Cosley has had a strong, longtime relationship with a Michigan grower.
"The one really small thing that did impact us there -- and it was very minor -- I normally do get a couple dozen 12-foot balsam trees," Wahlgren said. "Balsams tend to be a little bit lighter weight. But because of the issue of (the grower) not planting as many of those, we weren't able to get the 12-foot balsams. We had to go to a 12-foot Fraser. They're pretty hefty."
National Christmas Tree Association spokesman Doug Hundley said the problem for many growers began with the recession and 2008 financial crisis. Fewer trees were chopped down to make room for seedlings, because demand decreased and growers reduced their prices for the inventory occupying their properties.
Hundley said it takes about 10 years to grow a typical 7- or 8-foot Christmas tree. That means seedlings planted after the economy improved are not ready for sale.
"The best Christmas trees are not manufactured," Hundley said, "and we don't cut wild trees from the forest anymore."
California, Oregon, Missouri, Kansas and Tennessee are among the states cited in news reports with tight Christmas tree inventories. The Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association said the shortage there is due in part to about a third of Oregon Christmas growers quitting.
In the suburbs, family-owned John's Evergreens is well-stocked this season at lots in malls in Hoffman Estates, Elk Grove Village and Hanover Park. Unlike some growers, John Veraghen said his business never let up in planting seedlings on his family's farm in Powers, Michigan.
Veraghen said some of the tree businesses are disappearing because families are selling their farms.
"I think a part of the reason is some of your growers are getting up in age and for us, the families, the youngest end of the family doesn't want anything to do with the tree business because it's such a hard business," he said.
Veraghen said his three sons are committing to the farm and keeping up the family Christmas tree business in the suburbs. One of his sons, Troy, was busy this week for John's Evergreens in the parking lot of Huntington Plaza on Algonquin Road in Hoffman Estates.
Business has been brisk for Batavia Boy Scout Troop 12's annual sale scheduled to run through Dec. 22. Richard Smith, who chairs a committee in charge of the troop's 60-year-old main fundraiser, said the usual supply of about 1,000 trees was delivered from Wisconsin.
On the big-box end, Menards spokesman Jeff Abbott said the company's suppliers are not experiencing a shortage. He said there's a good supply of Christmas trees from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
An annual survey conducted by the Christmas tree group shows 27.4 million live trees were sold in 2016 at a mean price of $74.70. About 18.6 million artificial trees were sold at a mean of $98.70.
Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Washington are the top Christmas tree-producing states, according to the association.