There is nothing quite like spending time outdoors on a crisp winter day, enjoying nature, tradition, and good old-fashion memory-making. And there is no better place to do all of these things than at your local Christmas tree farm as you pick out the crowning jewel of your holiday decorating. Elliott Tree Farm in Hillsburgh is one of our many family-run tree farms offering fresh cut and cut-your-own trees, with a healthy, hearty side of merriment. Whether you’re new to live Christmas trees or you’ve been cutting your own for years, visiting one of our York Durham Headwaters tree farms is always a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season.
For the last 35 years, Elliott Tree Farm has been in the business of landscape trees. The property itself is a century farm—complete with an authentic heritage barn—which dates back to the 1890s. Current owner Derek Elliott is in his sixth year of planting Christmas trees specifically, and is loving the experience. “We are a little newer to the stage,” he says, “but it is going well. We are a proud member of the Christmas Tree Farmers of Ontario association.”
At this small-scale family farm, you will find fresh-cut firs and cut-your-own spruces, a gift shop in the property’s heritage barn, a food truck and a hot chocolate bar. You won’t be distracted by noisy mechanical balers or shakers here. It is all done by hand to accentuate that personal experience, and to promote the kind of quiet atmosphere one would expect of a rural Christmas tree farm in YDH. There are also 100 acres of trails that guests are invited to explore, as well as two Airbnbs for visitors who want a unique getaway experience in the peaceful hills of Headwaters Region.
“We specialize in fresh-cut trees,” Derek explains. “They are all on display, and it’s just like you’re picking a tree from the field. But we also have our cut-your-own experience where we supply the saws and the toboggans to bring them in.” For cut-your-own trees, you can select from blue, white and Norway spruce, and white pine. For the fresh-cut trees, Douglas and Fraser firs are brought in from a partner farm, since Elliott’s firs are not yet large enough to harvest.
On the weekends from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., local food purveyor Miller’s Meats is on site, providing winter warm-up favourites like peameal on a bun, burgers, hot dogs and poutine. Speaking of warming up, once you’ve tromped through the fields to find your perfect tree, head over to the heritage barn for some hot chocolate. “This year for COVID-19, we have put in a no-touch failsafe,” Derek says. “It means we have to limit the number of people in the barn, and we’ve changed how we serve our hot chocolate. Now, we have a specialty hot chocolate bar where we make the beverages, instead of our guests making it themselves.”
To further observe health and safety measures, Elliott Tree Farm enforces a strict mask policy for guests when around the barn area, where the trees are wrapped and around the food truck. There are also hand sanitizing stations, and guests are asked to wear gloves when handling the farm’s saws. “You don’t have to have a reservation to come to our farm, but we do require everybody to bring your gloves, your masks and your boots along with packing your patience this year, because everything is taking just a little bit longer,” Derek says.
If you are up for braving the chill and taking care to observe health and safety measures, then a Christmas tree farm like Elliott Tree Farm promises an abundance of fun and memory-making. It is, after all, a time-honoured experience that families all over our region look forward to each year. With the heritage barn and the acres of natural, outdoor space, Derek Elliott recognized early on that his farm could be a Christmastime destination for families. “For a lot of people, coming to our farm is an annual tradition. They come back year after year. It really brings you back to your roots getting out there and doing something like that. But there are also lots of first time Christmas tree shoppers. We see more and more of these every year.”
That is why, for Derek, being a tree farmer is not just a way to make a living, it is a way of life and of community. Whether a guest comes to his farm or another Christmas tree farm in the area, he is sure that they will have a wonderful experience, regardless of where they go. And while they are in town, they will be encouraged to explore the community and sample the different goods and products available. For example, the welcome baskets at the Elliott Tree Farm Airbnb include GoodLot Farmstead Brewing products. “If you like the beer, then you can go down the road and talk to Phil [Winters] at GoodLot,” Derek says proudly. “There are lots of farms around here. Lots to choose from, and I think that’s great. It’s all just part of this whole farming community of small boutique farmers.”
Elliott Tree Farm
9467 Erin East Garafraxa Townline,
Hillsburgh, ON N0B 1Z0
Story by Katherine Ryalen