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It took 10 years to grow this Christmas tree. The price? $105

It took 10 years to grow this Christmas tree.  The price?  $105

Since the trees were planted, every day is a roll of the dice.

Unlike commodities like corn and soybeans, which Mr. Wyckoff grows on another 90 acres he owns, there is no effective way to insure Christmas trees against damage from extreme weather, or against the effects of a war abroad or a pandemic that freezes supply chains. , he added.

“Farmers are the biggest players there are,” Mr. Wyckoff, 57, said. His family has been growing Christmas trees in Belvidere, New Jersey, about a 90-minute drive from Midtown Manhattan, since his grandfather started the business in the 1950s.

Christmas trees grow slowly, about 12 to 14 inches per year, and can take 10 years to go from seed to harvest. Most of the trees he plants are between 3 and 5 years old when he buys them from nurseries.

To meet costs, Mr. Wyckoff this year increased the price of his trees to $15 a foot, or $105 for a seven-foot tree, up from $14 a foot last year. A decade ago, similar trees sold for $10 a foot, he said. The trees he sells include the popular Fraser fir, Norway spruce, Canaan and Douglas firs.

Despite the risks, trees remain Mr. Wyckoff’s most profitable crop. He hopes to sell 7,000 this year, compared to 5,000 last year.

“We’re in a boom period right now,” said Tim O’Connor, executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association. Supply was limited before the pandemic, then demand for trees that customers could pick and cut themselves outside exploded.

Nationally, there were 15,000 Christmas tree farms with sales of more than $376 million in 2017, according to the latest available federal data. Bert Cregg, a horticulture professor at Michigan State University and an industry expert, said farmers can make a 50 percent profit on each tree. Mr. Wyckoff said his profit was closer to 20 percent per tree.

Some costs have risen sharply for the Wyckoff Christmas Tree Farm. Almost all of Mr. Wyckoff’s equipment runs on diesel; he paid $4.70 per gallon this year, compared to $2.36 in 2018.

Climate change increases the risk of losing huge areas of trees. Of the 10,000 seedlings he planted this year, 5,500 were lost to drought and floods. It cost him at least $27,500. In a typical year, it can lose 5 to 10 percent of its new trees.

The work is hard. The farm has three full-time employees, but a rotating workforce of up to 40 seasonal workers during peak periods. Three large mowers ($20,000 each) cut weeds each season, trees are pruned twice a year, and pests and diseases are monitored daily.

Mr. Wyckoff said he saved money by hiring high school students, getting help from local hunters and recruiting family members. His wife, Leslie, does the accounting, his aunt Judy loves mowing, and his 23-year-old son, Johnny, also works on the farm.

The family’s trees have won prizes in national competitions and adorned the White House, Mr. Wyckoff said. The family has met Michelle Obama And former Vice President Mike Pence and his wife.

Although Mr. Wyckoff and industry experts worry about the risk of another slowdown if demand falls, business is doing well for now.

Hector Ruiz, 75, recently drove out of Stuyvesant Town, Manhattan, in search of a Fraser fir. He left with a tree less than 5 feet tall. Most of the larger copies were out of print.

“But I’m coming back for these trees,” he said, pointing to the fir trees still in the ground and reserved for next year.

Produced by Eden Weingart, Andrew Hinderaker and Dagny Salas. Development by Gabriel Gianordoli And Aliza Aufrichtig.

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Mattie B. Jiménez

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