JACKSONVILLE, Ark (KTHV) -- It's Christmas in July on tree farms, but how is the crop holding up in this record-breaking heat and drought?
"That's not real healthy. It's struggling. Because of the drought." says Jim Geisler, owner of Holiday Forest Christmas Tree Farm, as he points to a small brown tree.
Like any committed farmer he keeps a close eye on his crop--even if it's not "beginning to look a lot like Christmas!"
Geislers says, with a chuckle, "It's a, it's a full time occupation!"
His farm near Jacksonville is on 10 acres, 3 acres of them covered with Virginia Pine, Eastern Red Cedar, Leland Cyprus and Eastern White Pine...but no one variety is safe from the Arkansas summer.
Geisler says, "It was 111 yesterday in Little Rock. Officially. Can you believe that? That's unreal! We're seeing a lot of our plantings that we did this year are dying on us. Pretty high mortality."
Geisler says the large trees customers would buy this upcoming season, are holding their own. But the drought which began in April is taking over his VERY young trees. THAT means the Christmas crop 4 or 5 years down the road--is what is jeopardized.
"Be a little bit of a shortage because we've lost a year's growth losing all this. So much mortality on what growers have planted this year. Now these will be replaced. We'll come in next year and replace this loss. But you don't make up the lost growth. That's what's really lost. And that WILL show up down the road."
But even the oldest and largest trees aren't guaranteed to survive. Geisler points to a mature tree and says, "You see these needles drooping? They're having REAL tough time of it. If it'd had moisture that tree would be looking just perfect."
"You never know how severe a drought is going to be and when it's going to change... This is one that I put the little dam around it to hold water, little water basin but I still lost the tree. There's one over there I see made it, there's one that didn't so...probably about 50 percent of those or maybe a little higher mortality."
At the end of our trip, this farmer offers the reporter a cool drink...something everyone needs right now. As he looks out over his farm he says, "I came through and watered them. But too little too late. Not enough."