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To mark the sale of each Christmas tree at Trees For Less Nursery in Grafton, Lisa O’Malley pours a shot of whiskey for her customers. 

There's no tradition or folklore about the whiskey. But it is, no doubt, something that would happen only in Wisconsin. O'Malley goes through two one-liter bottles of Jameson Irish Whiskey a day during the season.

"I just invented it. I thought it might be fun," she said.

Coming to her farm is a full experience. That's what draws customers to Trees for Less in Grafton and Mequon to buy Christmas trees, many of them young couples and families starting their own new traditions.

It works — O'Malley and her husband, Rick, sell thousands of trees a year between their two farms.

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The draw of experiences for millennials, in particular, is so strong that the National Christmas Tree Association is advising its members to turn their farms into Instagram-worthy destinations.

"We’re helping tree grower to understand the newer customers saying make your lot a social media friendly environment. Make it a place to post and share from," said Tim O'Connor, executive director of the association. "That’s catching on. It’s a real growth trend for the future of the industry."

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Millennials are doing it for the 'gram, Instagram that is. No matter the cause, local Christmas tree farms are seeing an uptick in sales. USA TODAY

At Trees for Less in Grafton, that means a lot more than just wandering through 8,000 trees on the property until finding one worthy of holiday celebrations.

A banjo player greets customers singing Christmas songs, with adult versions for kidless crowds. Trees for Less supplies saws, but most people wait for the high school boys in Santa hats riding around on Gators who will quickly cut the tree down with a chainsaw. Back near the parking lot, customers warm up around the fire pit with free hot cocoa and cookies. Hand-crafted goods are for sale. And, of course, there are the shots of whiskey. 

All the while, they're snapping photos to share online. 

O'Malley tries to improve every season. She added a food truck — Falafel Guys — to the lineup this year. 

Buying a living tree, as opposed to a fake one, fits in with millennials' affinity for all-natural and locally sourced food, beauty products and home goods, O'Connor from the tree association said.

Last season, 27.4 million real Christmas trees were purchased in the U.S., a survey conducted for the NCTA found. About the same amount were purchased from choose-and-cut farms (27 percent) and chain stores like Walmart (26 percent), according to the survey.

NCTA is telling its members to embrace the young families by helping them create the perfect social media moment. The photos shared online will spread interest in the farm and lure more people. 

"We want (tree growers) to be aware of where their future customers are coming from," he said. That means doing more than lending a hand to tie the tree onto cars. 

The Wolosek Christmas Tree Farm in Wisconsin Rapids started painting some of its trees pink, purple and blue around five years ago. 

At the time, Jan Wolosek thought it was fun and a little different. The trees sell — the Wolosek farm painted about 50 trees this year, and nearly all are gone. The unusually colored trees also attract people looking for a lively backdrop for selfies and family photos.

"They want to build family memories," Wolosek said. "A lot of people just want to get a family picture." He said the customer base has always been young families for his choose-and-cut Christmas tree farm.

"You took pictures years ago but not like today," he said. 

Sarah Hauer can be reached at shauer@journalsentinel.com or on Instagram @HauerSarah and Twitter @SarahHauer. Subscribe to her weekly newsletter Be MKE at jsonline.com/bemke

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