Farmers urging customers to shop early this winter due to Christmas tree shortage

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LENEXA, Kan. -- The day after Thanksgiving is officially the start of the holiday season, and for many, that means decorating their homes with a real Christmas tree.

Hess Acres is one of the first farms welcoming customers.

"If you want to big bushy tree, you know, you might not be able to find one locally as you could last year," owner George Hess said.

There's a shortage of tall trees this year.

Hess said it takes about 10 years to grow the bigger trees, which are the most popular. Ten years ago was a tough time for farmers because of the state of the economy.

"We were kind of in a bit of a recession, so not as many people planted trees," Hess said.

Trees are a big investment of time, and besides the flailing economy 10 years ago, Mother Nature has come along and ruined everything.

"So this is a tree that has gotten too much moisture and probably not enough air movement through it," Hess said, pointing to a tree that is mostly brown needles. He doesn't know if it will recover.

This year's crop of trees are thinner with more brown needles. The seemingly endless rain in spring and early summer has caused root damage and fungus.

"So it really is going to affect the ones two or three, four, five years from now," Hess said. "I only do this for a hobby, so I'm happy no matter how many trees I sell. I only will sell probably maybe 50 trees, so it's not like a big part of my income."

Like in all other farming operations, there are good years and there are bad years. Hess' real pay-off is seeing children running around picking out their perfect Christmas tree and watching families drive off with one of the crops he has nurtured.

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