TIME Small Business

Growers Grateful for Higher Christmas Tree Prices

Christmas Tree Cost
Jenny Howell stands among snow-covered Christmas trees on her family-run Howell Tree Farm, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Cumming, Iowa Charlie Neibergall—AP

"There are more options and choices out there"

(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Christmas tree likely will cost a little more this year, and growers like John Tillman say it’s about time.

Six years of decreased demand and low prices put many growers out of business. Those who withstood the downturn are relieved they survived.

“I’m awful proud to still be in the Christmas tree business,” said Tillman, who ships up to 20,000 trees each fall from nine fields south of Olympia, Washington. “We lost a lot of farmers who didn’t make it through.”

Prices vary according to the variety of tree, but growers this year will see about $20 per tree, $2 more than the last several years, according to Bryan Ostlund, executive director of the Salem, Oregon-based Pacific Northwest Tree Association. Prices will likely rise as the holidays near and supply decreases.

Consumers looking to deck their home could pay a little more than last year, but costs vary widely depending on factors such as transportation, tree-lot rental space and big-box retailers’ demand that prices remain stable. For example, a 6-foot Douglas fir in Oregon, which grows about one-third of the nation’s Christmas trees, could sell for $25 while a similar tree hauled to Southern California might go for $80.

Tara Deering-Hansen, a spokeswoman for Midwestern supermarket chain Hy-Vee, said wholesale tree prices have climbed slightly but prices are set at each store and customers might not see any increase.

Heavy snow last week slowed the shipment of trees from Michigan, which ranks third in production and supplies much of the Midwest and parts of the South. In some loading yards, stacks of trees awaiting shipment were covered with up to 2 feet of snow.

“Getting the snow off was more work than loading the trees,” said Dan Wahmhoff, co-owner of a nursery in southwestern Michigan. “It was definitely a challenge — wind and snow and cold, trucks were getting stuck — but we made it through.”

In the coming years, growers expect the supply of trees to remain stable with prices gradually increasing, in part because it takes six to seven years for a seedling to grow large enough to sell.

Even with the increase, most growers are being paid less now than in the mid-2000s, when trees from new and expanded farms hit the market as demand fell. And the industry still faces challenges, as competition from artificial tree manufacturers and other factors have led to a drop in trees harvested, from 20.8 million in 2002 to 17.3 million in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The National Christmas Tree Association, based in Missouri, has encouraged growers to offer more options that meet the needs of younger people who live in urban areas and don’t have space for a towering tree, says executive director Rick Dungey. More growers are realizing that if they offer different looks — such as a tree that could fit on a coffee table or one thin enough to squeeze into a narrow room — people will buy them, Dungey said.

“There are more options and choices out there,” he said.

Small tree-farm owners who sell straight to customers aren’t as affected by the factors increasing prices to consumers nationally.

Jenny Howell, whose family runs Howell Tree Farm southwest of Des Moines, said they’ll raise prices a bit because of high fuel prices for mowers and other equipment over the summer and drought that caused some seedlings to die. But their customers typically return each winter and don’t spend time comparing her farm’s prices to those in city lots.

It can be cold, hard work traipsing through the snowy tree farm in December, but Howell said her family still enjoys it.

“It’s a happy business,” she said.

___

Associated Press writer John Flesher in Traverse City, Mich., contributed to this story.

TIME Crime

Suspected Shooter Dead in Downtown Austin Gunfire

Suspect shot and condition unknown

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Austin police say a gunman suspected of opening fire on several downtown buildings and police headquarters has died after being shot.

According to their verified Twitter account, Austin police say the male suspect died early Friday in what authorities call an officer-involved shooting.

Police did not immediately say who fatally shot the suspect. Police say the man had targeted “multiple downtown buildings” in the gunfire before dawn.

Austin-Travis County EMS reports the incident led to part of Interstate 35 through downtown Austin being closed as officers tried to secure the scene.

Further details weren’t immediately available.

Austin police didn’t immediately a message for comment Friday.

TIME Retail

A Record Number of Shoppers Invaded Macy’s NYC Flagship Store

15,000 bargain hunters clamor for pre-Black Friday deals

A titanic crowd of shoppers, with dreams of discounted handbags and headphones dancing in their heads, surged into Macy’s Herald Square on Thursday night, in what is believed to be the biggest shopping night ever for the flagship store in New York City.

The retail company’s CEO estimated that a record-breaking 15,000 shoppers visited the iconic store for its holiday deals on Thursday evening, just hours after Santa Claus brought the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to a close outside the retail giant, USA Today reports.

Macy’s store at 34th street opened at 6:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving with “doorbuster deals,” well preceding the official start of “Black Friday.” The company had earlier posted a picture to Instagram of a Christmas shopping list and a tidy spread of festive purchases.

“Ready to roll once the doors open!” read the caption, with the hashtags #blackfriday and #thingsorganizedneatly.

Shoppers made quick work of the latter, with bundled-up customers tearing through heaps of designer handbags while others carried shoeboxes over their heads.

USA Today reports that “not a single floor tile was wasted” in the 11-floor store, which takes up a full city block.

[USA Today]

TIME Ferguson

Ferguson Protests Move to Target, Wal-Mart Stores

A protester holds signs aloft outside Macy's before the kick off of Black Friday sales in New York
A protester holds signs outside Macy's before the kick off of Black Friday sales in New York City on Nov. 27, 2014 Andrew Kelly—Reuters

Demonstrations occurred at several Wal-Mart and Target stores across St. Louis

(MANCHESTER, MO.) — Dozens of people have interrupted holiday shopping at major retail stores around the St. Louis area to speak out about a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer who fatally shot Michael Brown.

The protests began Thanksgiving night and continued early Friday. Protesters spent a few minutes at each store, shouting inside as law enforcement stood watch. There was no immediate word of any arrests.

According to Johnetta Elzie, who had been tweeting and posting videos of the protests, demonstrations occurred at a Wal-Mart and Target in Brentwood, two Wal-Marts in St. Charles and one Wal-Mart in Manchester.

In the suburb of Ferguson, where Brown was shot on Aug. 9, it was a quiet holiday night. There were no visible protests as the National Guard patrolled the area.

TIME Ferguson

Ferguson Gives Thanks After a Quiet Night

Volunteers paint a mural on boarded-up businesses before a third night of protests in reaction to the grand jury verdict in the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson
Volunteers Elliot Bailey, left, and Maria Whelan paint a mural on boarded-up businesses before a third night of protests in reaction to the grand jury verdict in the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., on Nov. 26, 2014 Lucas Jackson—Reuters

Children used paintbrushes to decorate the plywood covering many storefront windows

(FERGUSON, MO.) — Protesters in Ferguson pressed pause Thursday as the city welcomed Thanksgiving, decorating boarded-up storefronts with some Dr. Seuss inspiration and gathering for church services — a stark contrast to previous days of outrage over the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case.

No police officers or Missouri National Guard members stood sentry outside the Ferguson police station, which has been a nexus for protesters since Monday night’s announcement that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, wouldn’t be indicted for fatally shooting the unarmed black 18-year-old in August.

On that downtown street, beneath a lighted “Season’s Greetings” garland, three children used paintbrushes to decorate the plywood covering many storefront windows that was put up to foil potential vandals. One quoted from “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”

VOTE: Should the Ferguson Protestors Be TIME’s Person of the Year?

“We thought we’d do what we could to make it a little more attractive and then try to bring the kids into it and get them involved in making the businesses appear a little less scary, depressing,” said Leah Bailey, as her 7-year-old son Dennis climbed a ladder to finish an orange dragon.

Several hours after dark, a few people continued painting, but there was no visible protest activity. National Guard troops occasionally patrolled the area and surrounding neighborhoods in vehicles and on foot.

Since the grand jury’s decision, protests have taken place across the country. Most have been peaceful. But at least 130 demonstrators who refused to disperse during a Los Angeles protest were arrested Wednesday night, while 35 people were detained in Oakland following a march that deteriorated into unrest and vandalism, according to police officials.

Back in Ferguson, Greater St. Mark Family Church sits blocks from where several stores went up in flames after the grand jury announcement. A handful of people listened to the Rev. Tommie Pierson preach Thursday that the destruction and chaos was by “a small group of out-of-control people out there.”

“They don’t represent the community, they don’t represent the mood nor the feelings of the community,” Pierson said. “I would imagine if you talked to them, they probably don’t even live here. So, we don’t want to be defined by what they did.”

In downtown St. Louis, a group gathered near Busch Stadium for what organizer Paul Byrd called a “pro-community” car rally meant to be peaceful and counter the recent Ferguson violence he suggested has tarnished the region’s image.

Byrd, a 45-year-old construction worker from Imperial, Missouri, declined to say whether he supported Wilson but noted, “I totally support police officers.” The cruise was escorted by a city police vehicle; no protesters showed up.

TIME Transportation

Uber Is Squeezing Taxi Owners, Too

525335817
Getty Images

The traditional taxi industry is in the midst of a revolution due to popular ride-sharing apps

Amid the rapid rise of ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, the cost of running taxis across major U.S. cities has dropped significantly over the past year.

The prices of New York City medallions, which represent ownership of and license to operate a taxi, fell by 17% between last spring and this October due to falling demand, the New York Times reported.

Medallions prices in Chicago also dropped by 17%, while prices in Boston reportedly went down by about 20%.

City-regulated taxi companies have been struggling to keep up with mobile-based cab services like Uber and Lyft, which are generally perceived as cheaper and more convenient by customers.

Read more at the Times

TIME Crime

Ferguson Cop Darren Wilson Will Never Police Again, His Lawyer Says

St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office undated evidence photo from August 9 Ferguson Police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri shows officer Darren Wilson
Officer Darren Wilson is pictured in this undated handout evidence photo Handout—Reuters

"Going forward it will be school, and trying to carve out a new niche, new career, for he and his family"

Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who killed unarmed teen Michael Brown in August, setting off months of protests, will likely never be a law enforcement officer again, his lawyer said in an interview with NBC station KSDK.

“Realistically speaking, Darren will never be a police officer again, and he understands that,” attorney Jim Towey said. “Going forward it will be school, and trying to carve out a new niche, new career, for he and his family.”

There were violent protests this week in the St. Louis suburb after a grand jury declined to indict Wilson in Brown’s death on Aug. 9 …

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Crime

LAPD Says Arrested Protesters Will Be Released in Time for Thanksgiving Dinner

Protesters In LA React To Grand Jury Decision In Ferguson Case 


A protester is arrested at during a demonstration in Los Angles on Nov. 26, 2014. David McNew—Getty Images

About 90 people remained in jail Thursday afternoon

(LOS ANGELES) — Demonstrators who can’t make bail after being arrested during Los Angeles protests linked to the Ferguson police shooting will be released in time for Thanksgiving dinner, police said Thursday.

About 90 people remained in jail after being arrested late Wednesday, and those who weren’t able to pay the $500 bail were to be released on their own recognizance, LAPD Commander Andrew Smith said.

A total of 338 people were arrested over three days during protests in Los Angeles, including 145 on Wednesday.

Those with outstanding warrants or who were arrested on suspicion of a felony will not be released, but those taken in for disturbing the peace and failure to disperse — both misdemeanors — will be freed, Smith said.

Many of them would have otherwise remained in custody until Monday, when courts reopen after the holiday weekend.

“We have the legal right to keep them until Monday but it’s the holidays,” Smith said.

Another 35 people were arrested in Oakland on Wednesday following a march that deteriorated into vandalism.

On Monday and Tuesday, some demonstrators in Oakland vandalized businesses and blocked freeways.

During the demonstration Wednesday in Los Angeles, people marched to a federal building and police headquarters but were turned away by police after heading toward the county jail and then the Staples Center arena.

Nine people were arrested for sitting in a bus lane on U.S. 101 near downtown during one of the busiest driving days of the year.

TIME Ferguson

Ferguson Protesters Arrested at NYC’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

A small group broke away from the designated route and tried to approach the floats

A group of protesters were arrested Thursday at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while demonstrating in the wake of the announcement that a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., would not be indicted in the death of an unarmed black teenager.

Officers of the New York City Police Department arrested seven protesters after they broke from their designated route and attempted to approach the iconic floats, PIX 11 reports. Others who did not attempt a disruption were not detained.

The protesters, affiliated with #stoptheparade, were decrying the killings of Akai Gurley, Eric Garner and others. The campaign comes days after the grand jury decision not to charge Ferguson cop Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

[PIX 11]

TIME justice

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Released From Hospital

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is photographed in the West conference room at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday, August 30, 2013. Nikki Kahn—The Washington Post/Getty Images

After undergoing a procedure to clear a blocked artery

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was discharged and sent home from a hospital on Thanksgiving Day after undergoing a procedure to clear a blocked artery, a spokeswoman said.

The feisty 81-year-old was admitted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center on Tuesday night following discomfort while exercising, the Associated Press reports. A heart stent was inserted to clear the blockage in her right coronary artery.

She was released before noon Thursday and expected to return to work on Monday.

Ginsburg, the oldest member of the nine-justice court, has repeatedly said she has no plans to retire until she can no longer do her job. “I think I’ll recognize when the time comes that I can’t any longer,” she told Elle in an interview in October. “But now I can.”

[AP]

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