By Marty Lamers
Trying to find something special for the family to do together this Christmas? Looking to create lasting memories while establishing some fun, new, annual traditions?
At Trees For Less in Mequon, Sam and Lisa O’Malley, who are current Tosa Residents go all-out to deliver a unique experience every holiday season. It continues their family’s tradition of Christmas and community.
The O’Malleys ensure that selecting your Christmas tree at their Trees For Less farm is a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with your family, enjoying fun and meaningful Christmas traditions. The spirit of a traditional Christmas is not only alive and well at Trees For Less, it is being newly grown and cultivated here, with plenty to share!
Trees For Less provides a Christmas tree experience rich with seasonal extras. In addition to having a range of freshly cut trees as well as a select number of live trees you can choose and harvest yourself, the farm makes a truly beautiful, picturesque place to kick-off or expand upon your holiday season. The O’Malleys then take it a few steps further, ensuring your family has a uniquely memorable time with this annual tradition.
There is a huge, dug-in fire pit, where you can sit on a stump and warm up while your family members compare trees. They run continual hayrides around the 100-acre farm so you can take in all the winter beauty of a cultivated, south-central Wisconsin tree farm.
Santa visits on weekends, for pictures with the kids and secrets shared of gifts to come, and there is a big wooden sleigh on the grounds that also offers great family photo ops for free. The O’Malleys provide snacks and hot chocolate to enjoy while you are there and might even have a few surprises at the checkout counter for the adults and children alike to make sure each visit is truly memorable.
Yet perhaps most amazingly, they are not charging any extra fees for these additional services: the purchase of a tree or wreath includes all these extras. It is part of the traditional approach Trees For Less maintains and expands upon annually to deliver a notably unique holiday experience for every visitor. People come out for a tree or wreath and spend a few hours having a holiday time that is second-to-none.
“I have to be honest,” said Sam OMalley, “when Lisa and I were deciding about buying the tree farm business from my father, we visited the holiday tree services all across south Wisconsin. Our Christmas experience is simply unparalleled, and it is a source of pride for us as it was with my father. It is a big part of every year’s business: not because of what we earn from it, but more because of what it gives back to our family, and all the families and friends who come back every year to share it with us. Every year, it is a big deal and we simply won’t have it any other way.”
It all started with Sam’s great-grandparents…
Family Style Farming
“My great-grandparents bought the property in the 1940s,” Sam shared recently. “It was originally 157 acres, but over time a few acres got parceled-off. Still, between my sister, cousin, dad, and I we still have over 130 acres today, so it remains a sizable property here in Mequon.” He smiled and added: “It’s our own little slice of heaven.”
Though Trees For Less has a great Christmas tree program that they expand on yearly, their main focus is on cultivating year-round trees/arborvitaes and mulch delivery to supply across southern Wisconsin.
Originally the trees began as a hobby of Sam’s great-grandfather who planted various types all over the property. His grandfather carried on the cultivation, and Sam beamed with pride to mention his grandfather was also a prominent family doctor in the area, well-known for delivering more than 5000 babies in his time. Sam spent many hours of his childhood on the farm with his grandparents – memories he now treasures more than anything.
Sam’s father was the one who turned the trees into a solid and dedicated commercial interest for the property, and he was also the one who began the first Christmas tree traditions. He developed a true tree nursery here, and ran it successfully for more than 35 years.
However, when it was time for Sam’s father to retire from tree farming, Sam and Lisa were already starting their own family out in Colorado, with no real intentions of moving back. Yet the lure of family, and farming, and the future proved to be too much for them.
“I was in a whole different career,” Sam explained. “But I learned that my job was going to start requiring me to travel multiple times each month, and we didn’t like that at all. We have two small children now and another on the way this Spring, so being away from them so much every month was just not acceptable.”
Sam and Lisa decided to buy the business from Sam’s father and move back to Wisconsin, to carry on the traditions and legacy so steeped in their family land. They live in Tosa now and spend a lot of time together with their children out on their family’s farm – the same way Sam did, growing up.
While Sam now handles the day-to-day operations of Trees For Less, Lisa’s experience in marketing, ecommerce and webwork have proven to be invaluable to their efforts as well. You can hear the mutual respect and love they have for each other as they describe their business today, and where they see it going.
“I think one thing that we really pride ourselves in, is being a family tradition,” said Lisa. “We want families to come out every year to do the hayride and have hot cocoa by the bonfire…and THEN pick their tree. We want it to be a really memorable family experience, and we are happy to be able to keep our prices competitive while we offer so much more each year.”
This year, the O’Malleys are expanding on the offerings they provide. They are offering pre-booked, private, 30-minute horse-drawn tours of the property. For a small premium, your family can book solo time in a horse-drawn carriage, with photo opportunities and memories galore. Sam says it is one example of a way they can keep offering new, fresh ideas to add to established holiday traditions on the farm.
What To Expect
If you want to get the full experience at Trees For Less, you may want to go earlier than later. Sam says, the trees they bring in from central Wisconsin tend to go pretty quick each year, and they always sell out a couple weeks ahead of Christmas.
The trees for sale here are moderately priced from roughly $60-130, with height, quality, and fullness determining your final cost. Lisa points out that all of the extras provided – the hayrides, snacks, Santa visits and more – are part of the whole Christmas experience here, and included for everyone.
Sam said it takes five to eight years to grow a proper Christmas tree, so while many are in the ground right now, only a select number are available to be live-harvested each year. They currently have more than 20 acres dedicated solely to the growth and cultivation of Christmas trees, so the O’Malleys are definitely committed to the cause.
To book a horse-drawn sleigh ride this year, visit their website or Facebook to find a calendar link to reserve. Reservations are limited, and offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
Sam said that a number of years ago, his father also started tapping the hundreds of sugar maples grown on the farm and making maple syrup as a hobby. While not sold commercially, there are usually a few jars of this regional treat to be found around the checkout counter if your timing’s right.
“In the fall, the colors from the maples and all our trees are just incredible and deliver something special for weeks or even months at a time. I would guess that in our future, we probably expand our holiday offers to include the fall, and all the richness it provides out here…”
From a legacy that now spans four generations and is looking into the fifth, it makes an easy story to continue.
Visit Trees for Less
11550 Wasaukee Rd, Mequon, WI 53097
Open from 8:30am to dusk, daily.
Five Expert Tree Tips:
- Fresh is best: Always ask for a fresh cut, this cleans up the dried sap and allows your tree to absorb more water.
- Water, water, water: Make sure to get your tree in water as soon as you get home and keep the water level up. The first couple of days your tree can drink as much as a gallon of water, so keep your tree well-hydrated to make it last.
- Keep it cool: Avoid placing your tree too close to a heater or fireplace to reduce any potential fire hazards.
- Clean it up: At TFL we sell extra-large bags that you can place under your tree skirt. It makes cleaning up a breeze, by pulling the bag up over the tree and just carrying it out. Avoiding the trail of needles on your way outside is more than half the battle here.
- Recycle: You can use your old tree for a bird habitat or mulching your garden beds. Drop it weighted into a lake to give fish a place to enjoy. There are many great ways to give your tree a second life.