December 23, 2019

Three U.S. Christmas Tree Production Facts

By David Widmar

With the Christmas holiday just days away, this week’s post shares three facts about U.S. Christmas tree production.

1) Fewer Christmas Trees Harvested

Figure 1 shows a trend of fewer Christmas trees being harvested in the U.S. Specifically, recent Censuses of Agriculture show that roughly 15 million Christmas trees were harvested in 2017, down from nearly 21 million in 2002. The drop is a 27% decline over 15 years.

A recent article pointed to the Great Recession as a key reason for fewer trees.

2019 christmas tree production facts
Figure 1. Number of Christmas Trees Harvested, in the U.S. 2002- 2017. Data Source: U.S. Censuses of Agriculture.

 

2) Fewer Christmas Tree Farms

Similar to the number of trees harvested, Figure 2 shows a downward trend for also the number of Christmas tree farms in the U.S. In 2002, there were nearly 28,000 farms, compared to only 20,000 in 2017.

The change in farms over the last 15 years is a 27% decline, or an average annual rate of decline of 2.1%.

Not shown in Figure 2 are changes in the number of farms by farm size. Over the past 15 years, all size categories have reported declines. However, the smallest farms, those with 1 to 2.9 acres of production, were the least impacted by declining numbers. Specifically, these producers represent a larger share of total farms in 2017 (20%) compared to just 15 years ago (17%).

2019 christmas tree production facts
Figure 2. Number of Christmas Tree Farms in the U.S., 2002 – 2017. Data Source: U.S. Censuses of Agriculture.

3) Not 80/20… more like 77/11

Many of us are familiar with the 80/20 principle – where a large share of activity (80%) comes from a much smaller share of effort (20%). Applying this to Christmas trees, we’d expect a majority of Christmas tree production to come from a small group of large-scale producers.

Figure 3 attempts to capture the concentration in U.S. Christmas tree production. In orange is the share of total operations by farm size (acres). There are a lot of small acreage operations. The majority of operations (57%) have fewer than 10 acres in production. 89% of operations have fewer than 50 acres. The largest acreage farms (1,066 of them with 50 acres or more) account for 11% of all operations.

Shown in blue is the share of total 2017 Christmas tree production the size categories account for. While a majority of operations are small acreage, these operations account for a tiny share of production. For instance, a majority of producers (57%) have fewer than 10 acres, but the group only produced 5% of the total tree harvested. On the other hand, the largest operations, those with 50 or more acres, accounting for only 11% of operations, but 77% of total production – 77/11. Most impressive, the USDA reported in 2017 that the 434 largest farms raised 64% of all trees raised in the U.S. Those largest farms- the 434 with more than 100 acres of production- harvested an average of 22,000 trees each.

2019 christmas tree production facts
Figure 3. Concentration of U.S. Christmas Tree Production – Percent of Trees Harvested (in blue) and Percent of Operations (in orange). 2017. Data Source: 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture.

Wrapping it Up

For those interested in more, see our earlier post, which featured five other Christmas tree facts.

Wishing you and yours the happiest holiday season!

 

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