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Picking up a Christmas tree? Prepare to pay more

Christmas tree farms aren't immune to inflation, plus a drought 10 years ago has led to limited supply.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — With Thanksgiving in the books, many Hoosiers will spend time putting up the Christmas tree this weekend.

For families looking to buy a fresh tree this year, it's going to cost them more than 2021.

Prices from wholesale retailers have gone up by as much as 24%. That's according to Dan Cassens. He owns and operates a tree farm in West Lafayette.

Just off Morehouse Road, a bright red barn welcomes Christmas tree shoppers to Cassens Trees.

This is where Cassens stays hard at work. His 20-acre farm has rows and rows of pines and firs.

"A lot of people will ask for Fraser, because it's the most common species," Cassens said, "but Canadian is just almost identical."

Cassens said both trees are about the same price.

Credit: WTHR/Samantha Johnson

Cassens Trees also offers other types of trees:

  • Scotch pine: This is one of the more common trees in Indiana, according to Cassens. They are easy to grow with good needle retention and stiff branches.
  • White pine: These trees have softer limbs and needles. They can be a little trickier to decorate, because of that, but the cost is about the same as a scotch pine.
  • Fir: These are short-needle trees with stiff branches. They have a silver hue underneath the branches.
  • Spruce: With a more prickly texture, Cassens said spruce trees typically only hold needles for about three weeks. Timing is everything with these trees.

Of all the trees at the farm, Cassens said his favorites are the Canadian firs.

In recent years, taller trees have been in high demand, Cassens said.

"Ten-foot is real doable," Cassens said. "We have some 11s and 12s."

While it's doable, it's also more time-consuming and tedious.

"A lot of these bigger trees can have 200-300 cones in them," Cassens said, "and those all have to be picked out by hand. When you get on those big trees, you have to get a ladder out here."

Each tree is also sheared by hand over the summer.

"Professional shearers will have a knife in each hand," Cassens said. "They just walk about the tree and shape it. We don't like to shear these trees real tight, because then you've got no place to hang your ornament."

This year, Cassens said it's going to cost families more to pick the perfect pine.

For one, Christmas tree farms were not immune to inflation, according to Cassens. He said another big reason for the short supply is a major drought that happened 10 years ago.

"That probably started this issue of limited supply of trees, because that carries forward," Cassens . "This tree here is probably nine years old in the field and two more years in the nursery. You're looking at a 10-year timespan to catch up from the trees you lost in the drought."

To keep up with the demand, Cassebs has plenty of help on the farm, thanks to a handful of students at Purdue University.

"We have about 15 to 20 students out here on the busy weekends," Cassens said. "They have a good time. They work hard, but they also have a good time and joke around."

Currently, Cassens is a professor emeritus of forestry and natural resources at Purdue. He worked there for 40 years and has been retired for five years.

As Christmas trees are trimmed around the Hoosier State, Cassens said his tree farm has the honor of placing one of its trees in Gov. Eric Holcomb's mansion.

Cassens Trees is open Saturday and Sunday. Starting Nov. 28, the farm will also be open Monday through Friday.

Hours can be found online. The farm closes for the season at 6 p.m. on Dec. 23.

Once families get their new tree inside, Cassens suggests setting it in its stand within a few hours.

The next step is to keep watering your fresh tree.

"It doesn't take water the first day or two," Cassens said. "And then it warms up and says, 'Oh, it's time to grow,' so it starts sucking up water."

Lastly, Cassens reminds families to keep their trees away from heat sources.


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