When my boyfriend and I traveled to his hometown for Christmas celebrations with family, he was a bit surprised by the living room’s holiday centerpiece. 

As I noted earlier in the Notebook, I have never been shopping for a live Christmas tree, but his family makes a point every year to visit a local tree farm just after Thanksgiving. This year’s tree towered over the family presents at … just over 4 feet. Of course, they still had it decorated and looking cute, and we all had a good laugh over his mom’s great food and good Wisconsin drinks. But I wondered about it, then started Googling for a fuller picture of the state industry, because I work for a business publication and that’s apparently all I do.

It turns out Wisconsin is one of the top five Christmas tree-producing states in the nation, as the Wisconsin Examiner reports, and taking care of that industry is no walk in the park. The 2017 state agriculture census reported more than 700,000 trees cut from 859 Christmas tree farms -- a value of more than $18 million that year. And despite the national reports I found hyping tree shortages, Wisconsin media such as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the state’s industry is optimistic even though many farmers walked away after the 2008 recession. 

“The reality is we’ve never run out of Christmas trees,” said Tim O’Connor, who leads the National Christmas Tree Association. 

So it seems there’s no tree shortage, at least in our neighboring Wisconsin. It’s hard to say why this year’s tree was so short -- my boyfriend’s father theorized a combination of bad weather and a smaller supply available at their local farm, which tracks with some of the broader national and stateside reporting out there. It takes seven to 10 years for a tree to reach full size, and the poor ol’ sap in the living room likely hadn’t had time to get there. In the end it didn’t matter -- we saw family, friends and a Green Bay Packers win to cap off the weekend, and the stout little tree still served its purpose as the backdrop to a memorable holiday trip.