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NC drought, wildfires could threaten next year's Christmas tree crop

Posted November 25

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— With the scent of freshly cut evergreens in the air, it's smelling a lot like Christmas at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh—and the place is all abuzz with the whine of chainsaws.

Black Friday is a bonanza for Christmas tree sales. The trees on display at the market are mostly Fraser firs, and all of them were hauled in from western North Carolina, which has been parched and smoky.

Christmas tree growers from the mountains say despite drought and dirty air, the trees this year are in good shape.

One grower, William Effler, owns Still Fork Nursery near Burnsville. He says a wildfire was burning just three miles from his farm and made him nervous.

Effler and other growers say the Fraser fir is a hardy tree that can withstand dry spells. But if serious drought persists into next year, growers could lose some trees.

Another farmer, Aaron Cole of Doby's Tree Farm in Ashe County, said all the fires in the region are not helping matters because Fraser firs desire "clean mountain air."

All that considered, how does his crop look this year?

"Well, everything is pretty dry," Cole said. "(But) We don't have much to worry about."

That's the consensus among growers here: Their trees as just as beautiful as they have ever been.

But if dry conditions don't let up, the crop might not be so lovely next year.

North Carolina has about 1,300 Christmas tree growers, most of them in Ashe, Alleghany and Watauga counties.

The state produces about 20 percent of the nation's Christmas trees.

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