The end of this year is proving to be chock full of so many things to do that when we have a little bit of down time to get away from work, we go all out on our family-friendly trips. Around the holidays especially, going ‘all out’ means squeezing the winter experience out of every minute possible. For that, Merry Farms is the perfect destination.
We now know Merry Farms is popular, but we happened upon it by chance a few weekends ago in search of a real Christmas tree. Driving out of Paris, we turned left through Lynden past the Legion where we once stopped in for a random pizza dinner, and we saw a sign pointing right toward Merry Farms. Obediently, we followed. What ensued was a glorious experience replete with the smell of pine, hot chocolate, gingerbread decorations and the best Christmas shoppe this side of the Mississippi. We just had to go back.
So we did, and lucky for us as it turned out to be their last weekend open for tree-cutting. So don’t go for the trees! But the Christmas shoppe is still open through this Friday, December 16th and that is worth a visit in its own right.
Merry Farms knows who its customers are. A sign exiting the farm points to Hamilton in one direction and Brantford the other way. Clearly it pulls the city folk out to the country for an authentic cut-your-own-tree experience, but situated just outside Lynden it is slightly more accessible to Parisians, a short twenty-five minutes away as opposed to the 35 minutes from Hamilton.
At Merry Farms, taken over from the Wills family a few years ago (and yes the new owners’ name is actually Merry), you can buy pre-cut trees or you can borrow a hack saw, wander off into their fields (or catch a tractor-drawn wagon or horse-drawn cart) and cut your own.
You bring your tree back to the front, put it in the tree shaker to get the bugs and critters out, then the large tree baler machine twirls a skein of twine around it in preparation for its trek back to your living room. Be sure to get the bottom cut off or it’ll have a hard time drinking up water. For each tree cut, the farm promises to plant two new ones.
Central to this whole experience is trying to stay warm. To that effect there is a Christmas store onsite, a building filled to the rafters with mostly ornaments. With rustic wood and hand-sewn burlap, bedazzled stars and portly Santas, glittering twigs and lacquered nutcrackers, there seems to be something for everyone (unless of course you are the Grinch).
Outside, staying warm means gathering around the large bonfire or filling up on hot fries or grilled cheese at the food trucks serviced by the Rockton Lions Club. From there you can see the Clydesdales, friendly fellas, penned next to a hand painted sign warning they may bite. (Hardly believable, though watch your pom-poms – we did see one little girl nearly lose hers off her hat!)
A number of signs proclaim other activities: races, a slides, and gingerbread cookie decorating stations. If you’re feeling lazy you can buy pre-decorated cookies inside the shop. Don’t let your kids see the red truck cookie, though; it’s their signature emblem (you can take a picture in front of the vintage red Merry Farms truck) but hey it’s Christmas and it’s the time to indulge. Entry to the farm is completely free, so unless you’re buying something to take home, it’s worth the splurge in the shop.
A few other tips for the experience:
- If you borrow a saw, be sure to carry the blade facing backward, especially when walking on slippery surfaces.
- Keep an eye out for cheeky puns boarded into trees lining the drive in and out of the farm.
- Bring your camera. Beyond the impossibly picturesque scene of selecting your own real Christmas tree, there are plenty of intentional photo ops – on top of a sleigh, on top of a tractor, behind wooden cutouts, and more.
As mentioned, we visited this last weekend on one of the final days of the tree farm availability.
Even on the last weekend, we heard they were already sold out of large trees, but the Christmas store is still open for a few more days (until Friday December 16th) and it is genuinely worth a visit. Go, and fill those stockings. The whole place is designed to be magical, and we can attest, it is the real deal.