A growing interest in the purchase of live Christmas trees has stretched area growers, who act as destination outlets for Cleveland area families seeking trees.
Manners Tree Farm, long a popular spot for families seeking an annual adventure to Lenox Township, was swamped on Friday, said MTF's new owner, James Stribrny. He said he will be evaluating when to open his business the rest of the season because so many trees were purchased the first day.
He said the line of people seeking access to horse-drawn wagon rides to the cutting area was about a 100 yards long at 9 a.m. on Friday and remained that way for three hours. On Saturday, business was a little slower, but there was still a steady stream of customers seeking that special tree.
Brennan Martens of Chardon carried the family-picked tree back to his vehicle as he has many times before. He said the unique experience of cutting your own Christmas tree and enjoying a horse-drawn wagon ride is the main drawing card to make the trip to Ashtabula County.
Stribrny purchased the farm this year.
"My family has run a tree farm for the last 30 years in Hudson," he said.
Media projections of Christmas tree shortages has pushed the market annually.
"People slam us earlier and earlier every year," he said.
The challenge is growers must bet on the Christmas tree market six to 10 years prior to the trees being ready for sale.
Glenn and Lori Sanders said they have been coming to Manners Tree Farm for about 15 years and are hooked on the horse-and-wagon experience.
Sarna's Tree Farm in Jefferson is also working hard to meet the tree demand and also get a lot of regional customers who like to cut their own trees and drag them back to their vehicles.
"It's been a pretty good season so far," said Valerie Burlingame, who helps run the family-owned operation.
A huge market last year thinned the fields a bit.
Louis Asmus, also involved in the operation, said there are plenty of pre-cut trees for customers. But he said an estimated 60 percent of the customers want to cut their own trees.
Bender Tree Farm is open for business in Sheffield Township, said owner Rick Bender.
"I have a nice selection of trees. [Friday] it was steady all day," he said.
Bender has planted new trees each of the last six years and expects to have a large selection down the line as the trees mature. He said he plans to sell pre-cut and "cut-your-own trees in the future.
Chuck Riley runs Deb's Tree Farm in Monroe Township and sat out the 2020 season. He said running a tree farm is a real challenge because of market and weather forces.
"We have cut trees and pre-cut trees," Riley said.
He said it takes nine to 12 years for his farm to get a tree ready to sell. Riley said he lost a large amount of the 1,000 trees he planted in the spring because of excessive rainfall.