South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Rotary will begin its Christmas tree fundraiser sale Friday at Mill Creek Park in South Portland, but other organizations haven’t been so lucky. Contributed

Some nonprofit groups that traditionally rely on Christmas tree sales as major fundraisers face a bleak holiday season because there aren’t enough trees to go around.

“There’s such a shortage. A lot of people aren’t going to have Christmas trees this year,” said Joanne Bond, secretary-treasurer of the Maine Christmas Tree Association.

For organizations like Rotary, Lions clubs and other groups that rely on proceeds of the sales to support their projects, “it breaks my heart,” Bond said.

She attributes the shortage to a heightened demand. During the pandemic, an outing to get a real Christmas tree was safe and people had more time to do it. Add that to the spike in demand as Millennials opt for real trees, rather than their previous generations’ preference for artificial set-ups, and demand exceeds supply, Bond said.

Groups in Westbrook, Gorham and Falmouth are particularly hard hit. In South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough, Rotary clubs are in better shape for the season.

Gorham Lions Club will begin selling Christmas Trees at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 25, at Plummer’s Hardware in Gorham. Pictured are Lions Ryan Irish, left, and Gary Olsen. Contributed / Kenney Aldrich

The Westbrook-Gorham Rotary Club won’t be selling any trees this year at Riverbank Park in Westbrook, and will take more than a $7,000 hit to its budget, said President Christine Johnson.


“We were not able to secure any trees again for this year, even though we started making inquiries last December,” Johnson said.

Instead, the club will sell wreaths, and with a supply 50% more than last year has pre-sold about 90% of that inventory, she said.

“The last year we had trees was 2020. With the pandemic, we weren’t sure what the market would want so went with 350 versus our usual 400. We sold out,” Johnson said.

The Gorham Lions Club will have a limited number of trees for sale starting Friday at 1:30 p.m. at Plummer’s Hardware on Main Street.

“Trees are really scarce this year and we could only secure 65 fresh-cut trees in total from our Maine growers in Amherst and Harrison,” club Past-President Kenney Aldrich said. The club usually sells about 80 trees per season.

Abigail Gustafson of Falmouth Rotary said they won’t be selling trees this year, but plans to donate 15 trees with ornaments and stands to needy families.


“We are limited by the funds we are able to raise,” Gustafson said.

Despite the shortage, the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Rotary club expects to stock their Mill Creek lot with 2,000 trees. Forecaster photo

Despite the shortage, the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Rotary club will be stocked with 2,000 trees, according to club spokesperson The Rev. Frances Bagdasarian.

“We are fortunate to have a relationship with a vendor that will supply us with our usual amount,” Bagdasarian said.

Those sales begin at 10 a.m. on Friday at Mill Creek Park in South Portland and will continue until they’re sold out.

The Scarborough Rotary expects to have more than 250 trees to sell this year, but has had difficulty getting trees in the past until it found a new vendor, according to club’s John Murphy and Troy Denned. Scarborough sales begin Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.,  at the Oakhill Citgo station.

The median price for a tree last year was $69.50, but prices are expected to be 5% to 10% higher nationally this year, according to Tim O’Connor, executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association in Kentucky. He attributes the rise in prices to a 70% increase in fuel costs and a 300% hike in fertilizer prices.


Ryan Liberty, vice president of the Maine Christmas Tree Association, added labor costs to that list.

Gorham Lions Club trees will be priced $50 to $60, up from $45 to $60 last year, with proceeds benefiting Gorham High School scholarships. In South Portland 4- to 6-foot Rotary trees will go for $55, and 6- to 8-foot trees for $70.

Liberty recommends that those who want “to experience the joy of a real Christmas tree” should shop early.

The Christmas tree shortage will continue for a few years, Bond said. Growers are planting more trees to meet the demand, but it takes eight to 10 years before the trees are ready for sale.

In the meantime, groups like the Westbrook-Gorham Rotary are focusing on other fundraisers to raise money.

“The good news is that we have worked hard to grow our golf tournament with the support of some very generous sponsors. In addition, we have something in the works for spring which we hope to announce by the end of January,” Johnson said.

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