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Years-long drought leads to short season for Killingworth Christmas tree farm

KILLINGWORTH -- Mid-December is normally peak season for Christmas tree sales, but this year one farm has cut its season short.

The Winterbery Farm in Killingworth shut its doors for the season due to smaller trees. It's all because of the drought, farm owner Shelly Cumpstone said.

She explained that "the lack of rain for two years, actually," has "knocked back our overall growth."

The farm has been selling trees since the mid-'80s, and has expanded to 14 acres. But the last few years have been detrimental.

Three years ago, the farm spent 120 hours shearing the trees. Last year that number dipped to 98. This year, only about 76 hours of pruning were needed to get the job done.

So despite strong sales the first two weeks of the month, they shut down early for the season. And the future is in peril.

"We’re concerned about where we’re going to be next year," Cumpstone said.

So, is this a future losing battle for the Christmas tree industry? The Connecticut Agricultural station said no, and the reason was one that Cumpstone has actually noticed.

Research of the stumps of trees has indicated that there are some drought-resilient trees, like the concolor, which could save the industry.