By Stan Maddux
DURAND, Mich. – Michigan ranked third in Christmas tree production in 2022, behind Oregon and North Carolina.
According to USDA, Oregon harvested 4.7 million Christmas trees last year while just over 4 million trees came from North Carolina. Michigan produced slightly more than 1.5 million Christmas trees in 2022.
Indiana ranked 11th with about 150,000 Christmas trees harvested last year, according to USDA.
Amy Start, executive director of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association, said the Great Lakes state ranks high because of its climate and having a lot of ground ideal for raising Christmas trees.
Start said Christmas trees grow best in soil that drains well from being hilly and contains a higher percentage of sand.
She said the roots on Christmas trees are prone to rot if exposed to high moisture content in the dirt.
“Christmas trees don’t like to have their roots wet. You’ll have to pick a different crop if you live in an area with good soil,” she said.
The largest Christmas tree producing area in Michigan and one of the leaders nationwide is Missaukee County in the northern Lower Peninsula of the state.
According to USDA, more than a half million Christmas trees come out of Missaukee County near Cadillac each year while nearby Wexford County harvests about 170,000 trees annually.
Montcalm County northeast of Grand Rapids produces slightly more than 100,000 Christmas trees in a season while over 70,000 trees are harvested in Oceana County along the eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan near Ludington, according to USDA.
A decent amount of Christmas trees also come out of the southwest corner of Michigan with the largest producer in that part of the state being Allegan County with more than 60,000 cut annually.
Just to the south, about 9,000 of the trees in Michigan come yearly from Berrien County.
“A lot of parts of our state have that kind of soil that just makes growing Christmas trees the perfect thing,” Start said.
Only about 9,000 Christmas trees are harvested annually in the state’s heavily forested Upper Peninsula.
According to the Michigan Ag Council, more than nine Christmas tree varieties are grown in Michigan, which is more than any other state. About 37,000 acres in Michigan are also used for Christmas tree production.
Start said the most popular Christmas tree in the state is the Frazier fir, which accounts for well more than one-half of all tree sales.
She said buyers seem to enjoy the soft branches and the length of time the Frazier fir holds its needles.
The Frazier fir is also a best seller at Pinecrest Christmas Tree Farm, which is one of the largest growers in Berrien County.
Operator of the farm, Kris Goodenough, said having plenty of Frazier firs in stock has also become increasingly vital nowadays since more trees are being taken earlier in the season but still last until after Christmas because of their needle retention.
She said most customers at her farm near Galien still come the weekend after Thanksgiving, the traditional start to the holiday season.
In recent years, the next busiest time at her farm, instead of early December, though, is the weekend prior to Thanksgiving.
“People are just wanting to decorate and do stuff so much earlier now. The tree varieties that we sell earlier is going to be the fir trees,” she said.
Start said things are starting to settle down a bit in what’s about a $40 million industry in Michigan.
She said a vast majority of the trees here are shipped to waiting customers nationwide and out of state deliveries, typically, are finished before Thanksgiving.
“Most of them have found their homes already,” she said.