Drought's impact on Christmas tree farms - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Drought's impact on Christmas tree farms

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FAIRBANK (KWWL) -

If you're looking for a fresh Christmas tree this holiday season, it might be tougher to find than usual.  This year's drought has taken a toll on local tree farms.

It's been a tough year for Christmas tree farmer Bob Moulds.  This summer, his wife passed away, and a devastating drought wiped away a lot of his newly planted firs.

"In certain varieties, in certain areas, we lost almost 100 percent.  Other areas we were able to keep half of them alive," Moulds said.

It's the most devastating damage from drought moulds can recall since the late 1980s.  Still, most of this year's Christmas tree crop is looking good.

"The trees we have for sale this year are good.  The drought didn't really hurt them too much.  We lost a few big ones, but they probably didn't have really good root systems to begin with," Moulds said.

Moulds says the real problem for his tree farm will come in 5-7 years - the time when trees that failed to take root this year should've been ready for sale.  So Wapsie Pines will try to combat the loss by planting extra seedlings next year.

"We'll plant about 50% more next spring than we did last spring," said Moulds.

Despite the difficulties of 2012, Moulds still loves coming to work and spreading Christmas cheer.

"This is what I like to do," said Moulds.

He also enjoys seeing families like the Appletons of Cedar Falls carry on their own family traditions at this tree farm.

"We both grew up on a farm and we each went out to the home farm and cut our own tree.  Right now, that's too far away to go back to the farm and find a good tree.  So it's nice to find a place where they're so nice and green and looking healthy," said Andy Appleton.

If Mother Nature is a bit kinder with moisture in 2013, Moulds thinks a future tree shortage could be avoided, allowing families the chance to have plenty of pristine pines and firs to choose from.  While Wapsie Pines lost a significant number of seedlings this year, Kris Kringle's in Cedar Falls, owned by Moulds' son, suffered worse losses.  About 10,000 trees or more were wiped out, including some that were 3 and 4 years old.

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