SHELTON, Conn. - More than 140 years before Brad Wells and his wife Trish planted the Fairview Tree Farm's first Christmas trees in the early 1980s, Brad's great-grandparents started working the same plot of Shelton, Connecticut, as a dairy farm and sawmill.
"We kind of learned from the ground up," Brad said. "I'd say after 30 years, we've got the process pretty well figured out."
On the Fairview Tree Farm's 60—on this day, snow-covered—acres now stand more than 40,000 trees in varying stages of Christmas readiness.
"For every tree that's cut, we'll plant at least one," Brad said.
It takes as long as 10 years to grow a Christmas tree, so any change in how many trees a supplier might plant won't affect supply for nearly a decade.
"There were too many trees in the late 1990s and 2000s," National Christmas Tree Association Executive Director Tim O'Connor said.
O'Connor blames that oversupply, followed by a recession that led to growers planting fewer trees, for a 4% rise in Christmas tree prices in 2018 he expects to see duplicated this holiday season in places where customers unwilling, unable or uninterested in traveling to small family farms like Brad's buy trees off a rack provided by some bulk grower likely out of the state or even the country.
"I would foresee this $70 being our price for several years to come," Brad said.
Prices have not risen 10% in two years at the Fairview Tree Farm. Brad and his team have planted more trees than the year before every single year they've been in existence, raising prices gradually along with inflation and the minimum wage.
"The popularity of the small New England farm is growing," Brad said.
Millennials and their ongoing quest for authenticity and a national demand greater than the supply perhaps allow small, family, cut-down-your-own-tree farms like Brad's with an opportunity to provide even more of the 32 million Christmas trees sold in this country every year.
Fairview Tree Farm | 2 Sawmill City Road, Shelton, Conn. 06484 | 203-944-9090 | fairviewtreefarm.com