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Tree farm ready for a busy season despite national tree shortage


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- Now that Thanksgiving is over many people have their eyes set on Christmas. For many, that means going out and finding that perfect tree.

Some shoppers might notice increased prices or less of a selection. That's because fewer trees were planted back in 2007 during the recession. Those are the ones that hit the national market this year, after taking 10 years to grow.

Vormittag Tree Farm in Grand Rapids is a family-run business in every sense of the world. They don't have a shortage because of the 2007 recession, but rather, when the farm was handed down to the next generation, no trees were planted three years before that. They've been trying to replenish their numbers from that and this year, they say business is booming.

Just a few minutes at Vormittag Tree Farm is all it takes to get in the Christmas spirit.

"This weekend is a really big weekend," said Derrick Vormittag, Christmas tree farmer. "Then next weekend will be a very big weekend as well."

Derrick Vormittag is a third-generation Christmas tree farmer. It's a farm that's been in his family since 1954. Vormittag says for them, there's a shortage of trees that started seven years ago.

"We were not planting enough trees," said Vormittag. "Seven years ago, we did not predict that."

Before Vormittag's father took over the business, his grandfather had stopped planting trees for three or four years. For a business that's growing, it's taken a lot of work to keep up.

"It feels like we've been constantly digging out of a shortage," said Vormittag. "We don't necessarily have a shortage, but the demand is definitely there. We feel like we're barely covering the demand."

Vormittag says it's almost a guessing game trying to predict how many trees they'll need eight years in the future and what kind of trees to grow.

"It's definitely a learning curve," said Vormittag. "With this boom, it's been super helpful, but at the same time it's making it very difficult to keep everything perfect the way we like it and keep it in stock for the customers."

But one thing has remained constant: their prices. All trees under 12 feet costs $55.

"What we're charging is a fair price," said Vormittag. "It's consistent with other local farms, maybe a little less, but it's fairly consistent. We're hardworking people just like everyone else. If we can make a living off of it then we're doing alright."

The tree farm has already sold hundreds of trees every day since they officially opened last week.

"We chose this tree because it was full and it looked beautiful," said Marsha Shooks. "It didn't have holes. I'm very fussy about trees.

"They smell good, they look good and they're just a part of Christmas having a real tree," said Ben Shooks.

The farm sells more than just a tree. Vormittag says it's selling the whole experience.

"You are supporting local," said Vormittag. "You're supporting local workers, you're supporting the farmers, you're supporting all the companies that provide the fertilizers or equipment. That's all local here to Grand Rapids. All that money stays here in Grand Rapids."

If you're in the market for a real tree, Vormittag recommends going out to get one earlier so there will be more of a selection.

For more information on Vormittag Tree Farm, visit their Facebook page.

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