BOONE, N.C. -- In a few weeks or so, you might find yourself riding up to the North Carolina mountains, going to pick out a Christmas tree.
"There's been a trend," explains Joey Clawson. "People are buying trees earlier."
Clawson is a third-generation Christmas tree farmer in Boone. This year has been really good for tree farmers, because the demand for real trees is growing. But that wasn't always the case. When the recession hit about 10 years ago, people stopped getting real trees, settling for the cheaper plastic ones. That left farmers with a big surplus and they wound up having to get rid of their crop or sell it off at very low prices. But now, the economy is evening out.
"Christmas trees are the number one economy in the high country now," Clawson explains.
Growing trees is trickier than a lot of people might think.
"They just think well you planted it and you come back in 4-5 years and just cut it and we're making plenty of money," Clawson says. "But when you spend 14 years growing this, it's a long term investment."
He plants trees when they're five years old and it takes about 10 more years to get them to a height people want to take home.
"It's detail management. Keeping close records of what sales are each year and the sizes each year so you can try to predict 8,9,10 years down the road."
But for Clawson it's all worth it. He takes great pride in his Fraser fir trees and the passion is extending into a fourth generation. His son is getting into the tree business, too.
The Watuaga County Christmas Tree Association says there's not a shortage of trees this year, but there is much more demand than past years.
But with a higher demand, should consumers expect to pay more money? Clawson and other tree experts say no, at least not in North Carolina where many of the trees are grown locally.