By Jonathan Owens
It’s hard to find free time at the holidays. Though you may be off from work, there are errands to run and relatives to visit and gifts to buy.
A visit with Santa can be something mom wants to mark of her list as quickly as possible.
But if you do have an afternoon free and want a wholesome family Christmas down on the farm, you don’t have to drive far. Tucked in between Sanford and Broadway, on Avents Ferry Road, is Broken Plow Farm, possibly one of the coolest places around spend time with Santa.
The farm has been in the Gillis family for generations. Today it’s owned by Richard and Debra Gillis, who work the land with their daughter Amanda and her husband Todd Anderson.
At Christmas, Broken Plow comes alive with a hayride through a farm full of Christmas lights that would make the Grinch gush. And if a photo with Saint Nick is what you desire, their setup is second-to-none. Santa has his own little building, and each family gets to spend a few minutes of quality time with him – alone. Best of all, you can take your own pictures. They also take pics of each visit to post on their Facebook page.
In addition to the hay rides and Santa visits, the farm also has a play area, petting zoo and food trucks to feed the hungry crowds nightly. And if you’ve been before, don’t worry.
“We are always looking for ways to add new displays or change things up,” Anderson said. “This year our trail is a little bit different and we have added some new displays.”
Broken Plow still grows soy beans, corn, pumpkins, vegetables and some cotton. But they also host Easter, Halloween and Christmas events, the farm recently added a wedding and event barn called Daniel’s Ridge.
They started the Christmas celebration four years ago after the success of their Easter and Halloween events showed there was an appetite for “agritourism” here.
Agritourism has become common in the last decade, as more and more family farmers look to diversify beyond the fields to sustain their business. From celebrations to fruit-picking experiences to holidays, pumpkin patches and corn mazes, it is one of the fastest-growing segments of the farming industry both nationally and locally – to which Broken Plow’s family can attest.
“Our attendance over the past few years has really been growing,” Anderson said. “We started over eight years ago for the Halloween events with only one hay ride. We now have three hayrides out on the trail at a time and this year we decided to build a new hayride that could accommodate more guests.”
Though farmers welcome the income, it can lead to some long work hours.
“It takes us around three weeks to decorate,” Anderson said. “There is a narrow time frame to get the farm ready for Christmas. We have to first take up the Halloween decorations and then we can begin decorating for Christmas.”
He added it has been worth the work to be able to share their family’s farm with others.
“We enjoy seeing those families that have decided to make it a tradition to come out each year. We also love meeting new families as well,” he said. ”We just want to thank everyone for the support they have given us over the years and to let them know how much we really enjoy seeing all the happy families each night.”
Want to go?
2019 Dates: Dec. 6, 7, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21 & 22
Time: 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Tickets are $10 for 2 years and older, includes the hayride and visit with Santa. Play area, animal barn and food trucks available each night.