Flo Clauson, owner of Ledge Hill Farm in Readfield, thought that she would sell out of Christmas trees her second weekend open.

“We were only open Saturday and Sunday (of last week) and when we opened on Saturday, we had the busiest day we have ever had since we have been open,” she said. “We had an unprecedented number of people at the farm.”

Flo Clauson of Ledge Hill Farm in Readfield. Photo courtesy of Flo Clauson

Families gathered at the farm, socially distanced and donned with masks, just days after Thanksgiving to pick out and cut down their Christmas tree.

Many farm owners think that the coronavirus pandemic is largely the reason behind the increase in Christmas tree sales — contributing to a multitude of factors.

The Readfield farm has been open for seven years, Clauson said, and sales are expected to rise by 10 to 15% each year as people become familiar with the farm.

But she was not expecting the sales to rise by 40% or to sell out of wreaths in one weekend.

“I think it’s been a tough eight months and people are ready,” Clauson said. “There is not much for them to do. Going out and getting a tree is something to do, and going out and getting a tree in the country is something safe to do.”

The nor’easter that hit Maine last weekend put an anchor on Clauson’s expectation to sell out, leaving many of the trees ice covered and the field with around half a foot of snow. She expects to “finish up for the season” in her third weekend.

Moose Hill Farm in Fayette sold around 300 trees and was “mobbed” according to owner Joe Young.

In his first three days open, he had more sales than in two weeks last year. He said in a regular year, he would sell 100 trees in the first week.

His farm lost power last weekend because of the nor’easter, so he was unable to open. But if sales keep up, Young may be forced to close earlier than the expected date of Dec. 21.

Joanne Bond, with executive secretary and treasurer of the Maine Christmas Tree Association, agreed that the tree boom has taken place all over the state, and not just central Maine. Bond sells Christmas trees in York County.

She has spoken with many farms across the state on how they have fared in their first couple weeks open.

“As far as I know, everyone down here is sold out,” she said. “I keep getting calls, but I won’t have any more trees until next year.”

Bond said that she knows of a farm in Presque Isle and one in Amherst that still has trees, but that is it. She said that she thinks the pandemic is fully the reason why cutting down a tree was so popular, because it gives something for families to do. Bond added that she thinks that the already cut trees are as sold out as the tree farms are.

Brady Wade, 2, sits in a toy car with small tree tied to the roof as his father Tim Wade snaps a photo Dec. 5 at Old English Christmas Trees and Wreathes in Farmingdale. The Alexander family has run the tree stand for 20 years. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“It was because of corona,” she said. “Everyone is sick of being in the house. They all want a little bit of happiness.”

Since families are unable to do traditional holiday activities this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, many will be staying home with their immediate family and unable to travel to extended families.

Clauson said this is also a factor in the uptick of sales at Christmas tree farms.

“We had some people come that would not normally put a tree up, because they were traveling, or would go to Grandma’s,” she said. “Since they are not this year, they may decide to put up a tree.”

There are also less commitments on the weekends now for families — no sports games to watch and less family activities.

Rob Palmer III, owner of Ben and Molly’s Christmas Tree Farm in South China, agreed. His farm saw around 500-600 people their first weekend open.

Palmer said they measured the number of people who showed up to the farm through the amount of cookies and hot cocoa that were given out. By Sunday, they had 525 cups gone, and those were just the individuals that decided to have a sweet treat.

“Now they can come whenever they want,” Palmer said to Clauson’s point about there being less commitments. “They can spend more time in the field where before they would run out and come back. Now they are walking around the fields and enjoying the atmosphere.”

Palmer describes his Christmas tree farm as the classic song, “Over the River and Through the Woods,” adding that the picturesque farm has allowed visitors to walk around and enjoy their time exploring natural beauty.

In addition, Palmer and his wife wrote a children’s book that was released this winter about how their farm came to be. He thinks that the book, along with the exposure that the farm has gotten through television, may also contribute to the popularity of the farm.

This past weekend the farm saw visitors from as far away as Wells and York.

“I think people are going for longer drives,” he said, with many families looking for something to do during the pandemic.

A woman searches for a tree among the rows Dec. 6, at Ben and Molly’s Christmas Tree Farm in China. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Wayne Alexander, the owner of Old English Christmas Trees and Wreathes said that in his 20 years in the business, people are the most in Christmas spirit that he has seen.

“This one is special,” he said. “With COVID, they’re in here earlier and everyone says, ‘Merry Christmas’ when they leave. Everyone.”

Moose Hill Farm had to install plexiglass shields in the gift shop to protect the customers through coronavirus safety guidelines. In order to promote air ventilation in the gift shop, the shop moved to a new building on the tree farm.

Clauson said that she has had a similar experience at Ledge Hill Farm.

Customers have not only been conscientious with coronavirus guidelines, but people have been generous in supporting her local business.

“I don’t know if people are being generous, and I don’t know if they just want to support a small business or (are) overly festive and want to deck out houses, but greenery and handmade craft sales are higher than usual,” she said.

If Clauson sells out early, either way, it wouldn’t hurt her sales. Each year, she selects what trees will be sold, so regardless, she is selling the same amount.

Two thirds of her inventory sold the weekend after Thanksgiving, and Clauson was making more wreaths Friday to keep up with the demand.

She was also receiving calls from customers that wanted to grab their tree before the weekend.

“I think people want to extend the Christmas season as long as possible,” she said. “It’s a happy season.”

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