Drought kills seedlings at Christmas tree farm

A Christmas tree farm owner in Beckwith, Ont., says he has lost hundreds, possibly thousands of small trees planted in the last two years due to the ongoing drought — and older trees could be affected, too.

"I've been doing this 32 years and I've never seen this much drought damage," said Ian Andrews of Ian's Evergreen Plantation.

"There's been ice storm damage, that kind of thing, but drought like this, I've never seen it and it's starting to affect really big trees, trees that are six, seven, even eight feet tall."

Anderson and his wife Linda Anderson planted about 20,000 seedlings over the past two years. Most of them have turned red and died, said Ian Anderson.

"We've got so many planted there's just no way to irrigate them," he said. "That's the way it goes."

The farm, which mainly offers customers the chance to cut down their own trees, also sells pre-cut trees and does some wholesale business.

The effects of this year's drought at the farm may not be felt for some time. The family's Christmas trees are generally sold when they're about 10 to 12 years old. The dead seedlings were about three to five years old, and their absence in the market won't be felt until approximately five years from now or more.

So for now, Ian Anderson said prices won't go up. But he and his wife may be replanting thousands of trees, and they're beginning to see damage in older trees.

Ian Anderson said the full effects of root damage in older trees might not be known until next year.

To boost revenues, the Andersons decided to turn their land into an adventure park. For a fee, customers will be able to use some sliding hills, go through mazes, and participate in wagon rides and hay jumps.

"The weather is changing, so you've got to change with the weather; try something different," Ian Anderson said. "Hopefully that will help us out, get us through."

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