CHARLESTON, W.Va. — At the age of 82, a Christmas tree grower in Braxton County tells MetroNews has no plans to get out of the holiday greenery business.
“I should have enough trees to last for at least ten more years if I don’t plant anything else,” said Ed Grafton, owner of Berry Fork Enterprises which is located in Heaters.
“But we’re planning on putting in another group of trees this spring. We usually plant about 3,500 to 4,000 trees and figure about a third of them will make it to Christmas tree size.”
Grafton planted his first tree on the property in 1973.
By the 1990s, it was one of more than 300 Christmas tree farms operating in West Virginia.
That number, though, has continued to fall since then, according to information from the West Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association.
Like many, Grafton can only watch the decline.
“I think there’s a shortage of finding trees, at least in this state, primarily attributed to the fact that there are so few growers now,” he said.
“There are probably about 20 counties in the state where there are no growers at all and most counties only have one grower.”
For the past couple of years, there have been reports of tree shortages nationwide.
One cited reason was fewer plantings during the years around the 2008 recession.
It can take up to ten years for a tree to grow to six to nine feet tall.
“Despite a tight supply, there will be a real tree for everyone who wants one in 2019,” Tim O’Conner, executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association, told NBC last month.
Data from the National Christmas Tree Association showed growers nationally sold 5 million more trees in 2018 than in 2017 at an average price of around $75.
Last year, 28 percent of real trees were purchased at choose and cut farms, like Berry Fork Enterprises, while the same percentage were bought at large chain stores, survey results showed.
A list of remaining choose and cut Christmas tree locations in West Virginia was available in the state Division of Forestry’s 2019 Christmas Tree Book which was posted HERE.
Grafton was not concerned about a shortage.
“I think we’ll have an ample supply to get us through the season,” he said.
Grafton used to do some wholesale tree sales, but now only offers choose and cut tree sales at his Heaters property from Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., during the holiday season.
Hours have been reduced from past daily operations partly because Grafton has been recovering from a heart attack.
He was predicting Norway spruce trees would be the most popular for his customers this December, though demand had been high for White Pine and Canaan fir trees as well.
“I personally get a real kick out of meeting families and helping them get something that they will enjoy the season with. That keeps me going,” he said when asked about his longevity in the Christmas tree business.
“That’s the fun part of it, to get the kids out there to run around and find the tree that they want to take home with them.”