From: Stuart Peddle – Saltwire

It seems Nova Scotians worried that COVID-19 is going to cut into their holiday fun are making an early run on Christmas trees.

Rex Veinot, of Maplewood Maple Syrup and Christmas Tree Farm, who runs a retail lot at the Joseph Howe Superstore in Halifax, barely had time to answer his phone when The Chronicle Herald called to ask him about business.

He said they will run out of trees this year, although they thought they had brought in enough to meet demand.

“The industry here in Nova Scotia has sent trees to the U.S. in big numbers over the last 100 years. That’s where most of the product went, but some of us who run lots in here, we saved our trees here for our customers,” Veinot said on Monday. “But I think they’re decorating early. I think most people got their tree in now.”

Veinot said his farm has no more trees to cut this season after three bad growing years.

“Three years ago, we had a bad frost, and then we had two dry summers – this last summer being nothing short of a drought,” he said. “We only harvested half of the trees that we normally do.

“Maybe next year will be the best ever, I don’t know.”

Jeffrey Reeves of Reeves Logging and Tree Farms decided to supply another tree retailer this year instead of running his usual lot in Lower Sackville.

“We didn’t come in for our retail lot this year, partly due to COVID and with the extra measures it would have taken more manpower, which is very hard to find out here in New Ross,” Reeves said on Monday.

“But what I did do, is I sold the trees that I had for the city, went to Withrow’s Farm Markets – one in Elmsdale and one in Mount Uniacke – and they’re having brisk sales this year.”

Reeves said people seemed to believe rumours that there wasn’t going to be enough trees.

“They sort of made a panic saying there’s going to be a shortage of trees,” he said. “There might be a slight shortage but I think there’s enough trees to go around. It’s just where they are right now.

“I know in New Ross, here, we still have (four) U-picks that are open. One guy decided not to open.”

Reeves said part of the problem for rural tree farmers is that Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, told people they shouldn’t leave the HRM to shop for Christmas trees.

“And I’ve gotten a lot of calls that thought I had a U-pick in Sackville, which they thought was still in the HRM, so they’re all right. So that does cause a little bit of a problem by not having people allowed to come out. Some are coming out anyway, but I noticed that the U-picks are a little slow out this way.”

He said people are definitely tree hunting earlier than normal

“I know people … didn’t want the COVID problem to get any worse, so they did buy their trees early this year. I think what’s probably happened is that people thought, ‘Well, if it gets shut down altogether, I’m not going to get a tree.’ So they did their shopping early this year.

“But the trend for people in the past five years is to buy your tree earlier, every year. I noticed that. I was in the retail business for over 30 years and we seen the different weekends that used to be our best weekends are now shifting away from the 25th of December and getting closer to the first of December.”

The 60-year-old plans to continue to supply Withrow’s Farms instead of running his own retail lot in the future.

Neil MacMillan, a volunteer at Kevin Nauss’s Christmas Tree Lot at the Superstore in Upper Tantallon, said while the lot seemed “a little bare on trees,” on Monday, Nauss was cutting more at his farm in New Germany fresh for market this week.

“The problem is everybody came last week because they thought it (was) a shortage,” MacMillan said.

He’s never seen so many people in the first week of tree sales at the lot in the 17 or 18 years he’s volunteered there, he said

“Their kids are home, there’s no hockey, there’s no sports for the kids. They want to decorate.”

He stressed families should make sure the trees have plenty of water so they don’t dry out and become a hazard.

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