In 1980, Jack and Judy Ewing moved with their two daughters 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, watched their children graduate from Eustis High School, and decided that they wanted to do something productive with their land.
Both Jack and Judy came from farming backgrounds - Jack had grown up on a farm in northeastern Ohio, and Judy on a farm in 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, the Ewing's had added several attactions to the farm. Jack built an 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 stocked with a variety of farm animals. The Reindeer Haystack was started, which was a large mound of hay in which the kids could jump and play, and a tractor-pulled hayride transported customers through the field.
Since then, the farm has grown and prospered. Jack and Judy's children and grandchildren have enjoyed helping out on the farm. Thousands of loyal customers visit the farm on the busiest weekends. Three types of trees are grown in the field, Red Cedar, Sand Pine and Arizona Cypress. Red Cedar and Arizona Cypress are also offered in pots for living Christmas trees. Christmas trees that can only be grown in states north of us are transported to the farm in refrigerated trucks and offered to patrons who prefer this type of tree. These trees are kept in refrigeration until they are set up for display in the shade in water holding stands which make them the freshest in the area. Activities now include kiddie cart rides, horse rides, a maze, a bounce pillow, zip lines and visits from Santa on the first three weekends we are open. A concession stand offers drinks, snacks, and food that can be cooked on the always-burning campfire. For your safety, no outside food is permitted.
The farm continues to expand, and is now opening for the fall season in October on the weekends selling pumpkins. Starting this year, Santa's Christmas Tree Forest will be open an extra weekend, November 3rd and 4th as a charity weekend. All proceeds from the rides will benefit deserving children in the area through the Kiwanis Club of Mount Dora. The "Kiwanis Fall Fun Fest" will feature arts and crafts, entertainment and much much more.