In 1980, Jack and Judy Ewing moved with their two daughters, Jodi and Jana, to rural Eustis, Florida. Jack had just retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and decorated pilot from the Air Force, and Judy was a registered nurse. They built a house on their 33 acre property, sent their children off to college, and decided that they wanted to do something productive with their land.
Jack and Judy both grew up on farms – Jack in Greenford, Ohio, and Judy in Streeter, North Dakota. Jack investigated Florida crops and was intrigued with the little known Florida Christmas Tree.
In 1987, Jack planted 1000 Virginia Pine trees. The Virginia Pine would not grow in the deep sandy soil prevalent in the area, so this first attempt was a disaster!
Then, Jack discovered the Choctawhatchee Sand Pine, which he planted the following year. By 1989, the Ewing’s had a small selection of 5-foot choose and cut Christmas trees, and they sold about 100 trees.
By 1990, Jack built the iconic red and white A-frame building, dubbed Santa’s Workshop, and Judy filled it with attractive hand-crafted ornaments and gifts. A petting zoo was created and stocked with a variety of farm animals, and a tractor-pulled hayride transported customers through the field. Their children, and eventually their grandchildren, helped with the operation as the farm grew into the family venue that it is today.
Since then, the farm has grown to offer different types of Christmas trees (16 acres of choose and cut, northern grown pre-cut, and potted) and pumpkins in October. Guests may rent the facilities year round for parties and events, and children visit from all over the area for field trips. Activities expand every year and now include zip lines, barrel tram rides, a giant bounce pillow and visits from Santa.
In 2012, Jack and Judy decided to slow down a bit and hand over the reins to their daughter, Jodi, and her husband, Tom, who have a home on the property as well. Jodi and Tom Utsman retired from long careers of teaching in Lake County Schools and eagerly accepted the challenge. They strive to maintain the strong family values always emphasized by Jack and Judy, while expanding activities and year round offerings, to bring farm life and wholesome fun to even more families. Jack and Judy continue to be a presence at the farm, visiting with guests, organizing Kiwanis club fundraisers, making quick repairs, and putting bows on wreaths. The Utsman’s son, T.J., daughter, Jordan, and her husband, Nick, are actively involved in the seasonal operations as well to make it a real family affair! Jodi and Tom look forward to many years of growing family memories.