Drought, Hurricane Matthew impacting local Christmas tree businesses

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - As wildfires continue to stretch across the southeast, many Christmas tree farmers are scrambling to make sure their crop remains protected and healthy for upcoming sales.

WTOC spoke to a local farmer who has been impacted, not only by the drought but also by Hurricane Matthew. In fact, I'm told most of the tree farms in the Coastal Empire were impacted more so by the storm.

One farmer in Midway is still attempting to save all of the trees that blew over during the storm.

"We had virtually every tree laying on the ground," said Paschal Brewer, with Brewer's Christmas Tree Farm.

Brewer wasn't sure if Christmas was coming this year after seeing his farm post-Matthew. Nearly 1,500 trees, big and small, were all leaning over including the 300 trees that were ready to be sold this year.

"What will happen is, it's going to be crooked up to there and then straight and nobody wants a crooked Christmas tree," said Brewer.

One by one, Brewer has been working to save each and every tree on the farm. Starting with the ones that are ready to sell.

"I'll take a stake and I'll put it next to it," Brewer said.

So far, he hasn't lost any trees from the storm but he has lost a few from the drought.

"With a drought and Christmas trees, the young trees are the ones you have a problem with and yes, we lost a few out here but not nearly as many as the ones in North Georgia where they are really having all the wildfires," Brewer said.

But the conditions up north could still impact his inventory here. He's ordered several hundred Frasier Firs from North Carolina because they don't grow this far south. But they also have trouble growing anywhere without rain.

"They lost a little bit of the growth they would have normally gotten in there," Brewer said.

Typically a tree grows about 3 feet a year, but he says the average tree may be a foot and half shorter this year. He says that's about all you have to worry about when it comes to shopping for a healthy Christmas tree.

"The older trees are well established and they handle the drought quite well," Brewer said.

I've spoken to a couple of North Carolina farmers, most Frasier Firs are being delivered here in Savannah next week. I've been reassured the trees are healthy and not dry but of course make sure you put it in water as soon as you get it.

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