The summer drought dried up a Siouxland commodity you might not think about, Christmas trees.
Iowa alone has an average annual harvest of more than 39,000 trees. It's a million dollar industry for the state. The drought could have some of those numbers on the chopping block in years to come, though.
The Johnston family has been coming to T & S Tree Farm, near Hawarden, Iowa, since before their kids were born. When picking a Christmas tree, they're very particular.
"It has to be able to hold a lot of ornaments. We have a lot of ornaments that the kids have handmade over the years and things we've gotten as gifts," said mother Kerri Johnston.
There's plenty of selection, but this tree farm like many others in Siouxland suffered while summer temps swelled. In fact, despite hundreds of hours of watering, officials say the dry weather killed off more than half of all the young trees they planted this year.
"We planted 1,600. I probably lost 1,000- 1,100 of those. Plus, some of trees we planted in the years prior," said owner Robin Miller.
Miller says her losses stopped at trees four or five feet tall, and taller. It means she's got a great harvest this season and won't need to raise prices or cut staff hours.
But, that could change if the drought continues and strains her, now trimmer, tree reserves.
"Really, the losses will show in five years when those trees that died aren't as big as they should be. We're going to replant more, just to make up," said Miller.
Here are some tips to keep in mind to make your trip to grab a tree more enjoyable:
-Be sure you know what size tree fits in your home, both height and width, before you leave. Trees always look smaller in the field and there is nothing worse than bringing a tree indoors only to find it's too big.
-Where comfortable cloths, sturdy shoes, and gloves that you aren't afraid to get dirty. You are going to a farm!
-Make sure the tree you pick has a straight trunk and will fit properly in your tree stand.
-Fresh trees need water. Once you get your tree home remember to check the water daily. Trees can use up to a gallon of water daily.
-Make sure you unplug any tree lights before you leave home or go to bed.
-Remember, fresh cut Christmas trees are biodegradable! Recycle your tree after Christmas.
-If you are not putting the tree up right away, store it in an unheated garage or some other area out of the wind and cold (freezing) temperatures. Make a fresh one inch cut on the base end and place the tree in a bucket of warm water.
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