Buy local: Buy a real Christmas tree

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MADISON — Besides creating memories and family traditions, cutting a real Christmas tree benefits the economy and environment.

"A real Christmas tree is an environmentally-friendly option that also supports local Christmas tree growers," said Sarah Marketon, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation's director of communications. "With many consumers showing a preference for local products, the tradition of celebrating Christmas with a real tree is great option."

Christmas trees absorb carbon dioxide and other gases, and in turn emit oxygen. For every real Christmas tree harvested, two to three seedlings are planted. Tree farms are also a great habitat for wildlife to live.

"Christmas trees are often grown on soil that wouldn't otherwise be used to grow crops," Marketon added.

Even after Christmas, the real trees can be recycled into mulch to be used on trails or gardens. Some recycled cut trees are used as soil erosion barriers or wildlife habitats.

Meeting consumer demands for real Christmas trees this year won't be a problem due to ideal weather conditions.

There are plenty of trees available, according to Cheryl Nicholson, executive secretary of the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association.

"It's a great year for families to venture out to get a real Christmas tree," Nicholson said. "With the good growing season this past summer, the trees look great."

Wisconsin has more than 365 licensed Christmas tree farms. According to the most recent agricultural census, Wisconsin is fifth in the nation in the number of trees cut and acres (more than 23,000) in production. More than 600,000 evergreens are harvested each fall.

"The sale of Christmas trees and wreaths generates more than $16 million for Wisconsin's economy and thousands of residents are employed in the industry, because it is a labor-intensive agriculture crop," added Nicholson. "Many tree farms offer gift shops, farm animals, reindeer, bonfires, hot chocolate, wagon rides and other activities, which makes for a fun winter-time ag-tourism trip for families."

A complete list of farms and retail lots is available on the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association's website at RealTreeForMe.com. Tips for selecting a tree and caring for it can also be found on the website. More information about farm-grown trees can be found on the National Christmas Tree Producers Association's website at realchristmastrees.org.