A popular day-after Thanksgiving tradition for many families is a trip to choose and harvest a Christmas tree. While supplies should be good this year, Iowa Christmas trees could be scarce in years to come.

Danny Moulds owns Kris Kringle’s Trees just north of Cedar Falls. He says the hot, dry summer took a toll on newly planted seedlings. “We did lose about 15,000 Christmas trees in a 46 acre farm,” Moulds said. “The thing with the fir trees, we didn’t just lose the little ones we planted this year, we lost last year’s (trees).” Had those young trees survived, they would have been ready for harvest in 2019.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources Forester Mark Vitosh notes, because the drought was so widespread, it may be harder to find the more popular varieties in the future. “You have to have each size in your rotation to have enough trees to grow every year, so they’ve lost a year,” Vitosh said of Iowa Christmas tree growers. “I would say in the next 6 to 9 years, that’s where the gap will probably be.”

The good news is most of the mature trees are fine. Moulds is among dozens of growers affected around the Midwest. Losses are also reported in Minnesota and Michigan.

Moulds said Christmas tree growers aren’t covered by crop insurance, but know the risks of the business. If it’s not weather related, sometimes it’s insects or wildlife that reduce profits. Moulds said he knows of an Iowa producer who had part of his crop eaten by deer in 2011 and had the rest of it destroyed by this year’s drought.