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Growers hope budget-cutters won't cut Christmas trees

Christmas tree growers say they have just one shot a year at making their business work and fear that the weakening economy will make it harder for them to hit the target.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Growers hope that while consumers trim their budget in a tight economy, they will still trim the Christmas tree.

"This is our one shot of the year to do what we do, and if don't make it, then we're really hurting," said grower Paul Hodakowski, who set up at the Farmers' Market in Raleigh Friday.

Growers said they have a good crop this year but fear that the many consumers who are cutting back spending won't buy as many Christmas trees.

"The economy is hurting us a lot," grower T.J. Pendley said. "People just don't seem to be spending like we normally do."

Some growers said they expect that, ultimately, customers will come out for their Christmas tree.

"We're hoping for a good year," grower Sheila Barrier said. "It's been really slow, but today has been good."

However, Pendley said he has already seen a 50 percent drop in his sales.

Despite higher production costs, some growers said they have cut prices to lure buyers.

"It's just the way the market is throughout the United States, so tree prices should be down just a little bit," Hodakowski said.

Growers said they will get a clearer picture of what their bottom line will be after next weekend, usually the peak for Christmas tree sales.

In the meantime, they're banking on families such as the Yates, who went to the Farmer's Market to look for the tree that will carry on their holiday tradition.

"Of course, it's her (my daughter's) first Christmas, so we're trying to make it a special one," Carolyn Yates said. "We look at the prices, but I don't even know what we paid last year, to be honest."

"Everybody's going to have a tree for their family," Barrier said.

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Mike Charbonneau, Reporter
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