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This time of year, many families drive to a local Christmas tree farm to pick out the perfect fir or spruce.

The selection they find depends partly on what the weather was like years ago, when the trees that are ready for cutting now were young saplings.

“One thing that greatly affected and continues to affect the growers here is a drought that happened throughout the Midwest, the Plains, in 2012,” says James Farmer, a researcher at Indiana University Bloomington.

He surveyed tree growers at “U-cut” farms in Indiana.

“Many growers that we spoke with, that we surveyed, lost anywhere from 70% to nearly 100% of everything that they planted new that year. And also some of the younger trees really struggled,” Farmer says.

He says drought is just one problem growers face as the climate warms. Some also report increased stress from heat, floods, and insects.

These problems come at a time when many growers are nearing retirement and scaling back operations.

So Farmer says shoppers may find that options for local trees are getting more limited. 

But he says if buyers are flexible about the variety they get — and whether they cut their own or get one that’s been trucked in from elsewhere — they can still find a great tree.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media