It’s crunch time at Christmas tree farms and stands throughout central Ohio.
The past weekend and the approaching weekend are expected to be the busiest for tree growers and sellers, who already have reported an exceptional season.
Chalk it up to an “early” Thanksgiving or the arrival of more seasonable weather.
Credit an improving economy or an upswing in the national mood now that a contentious presidential election is behind us.
Attribute it to whatever you like, says Bill Cackler, owner of Cackler Farms, he’s on track for his best year ever.
“So far so good,” he responds when asked about the season’s business thus far.
He has just returned from an unexpected delivery to downtown Columbus.
Tree sellers are having a tough time maintaining an inventory of the Canaan firs that Cackler and his family grow at their farm about seven miles northeast of Delaware.
“Seventy-plus percent of what we sell are Canaan firs,” he says of the popular variety.
According to the Ohio Christmas Tree Association, Scotch pines with their average-sized needles and medium to dark green color are Ohio’s perennial favorite. Other pine varieties are mentioned among the firs and spruces listed on the group’s website.
Cackler, an OCTA member, dismisses the designation ascribed to the Scotch pine.
“Maybe 20 years ago,” he scoffs. “Firs have taken over the tree industry.”
Fraser firs are predominately popular in the West, while Canaan, or West Virginia Balsam firs, are most popular in the East, Cackler says, decisively splitting the country into two distinct markets
Cackler Farms has been growing and selling Christmas trees for about 25 years. The enterprise features a slick website, but relies on repeat traffic for most of its business.
And this year, Cackler’s regulars demanded he open a week earlier.
“The market is shifting toward earlier and earlier sales,” he says. “Things start out slow the first couple of weekends.”
He’s not complaining; nor are fellow OCTA members at Lands Christmas Trees in Stoutsville.
Jean Lands works with husband Bob at the farm and calls the season a good one.
“We’re selling out early,” she says of some of the items. “I’m not sad about that.”
Firs top the must-have list at Lands, too. Bucking Cackler’s model, however, the couple sell some pre-cut Fraser firs due to two or three poor growing seasons at the area farm.
“We also sell wreaths and grave blankets,” she adds.
Cackler Farms specializes in the self-serve, cut-your-own experience.
He jokes that what he really sells is an engaging activity for kids, parents and grandparents and he throws in the tree at no cost.
“It’s an outing for the family,” he says. “It’s kind of neat.”
Cackler plants trees each year to maintain a healthy rotation and selection. Trees reach maturity anywhere between seven and 10 years, depending on the variety — spruces growing the slowest.
Like his counterparts, Cackler sells wreaths, swags, grave blankets, arches and crosses made with greenery from the farm during season.