Build Rich Memories at Peacock Road Tree FarmAs the classic Christmas carol lyrics go, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” At Peacock Road Tree Farm in Laingsburg, however, the wonderful time starts well before the traditional Christmas season. Diana Carpenter, who owns the farm with her husband Ed, works hard year round to get the family ready to reach her goal: help families “build memories of Christmas on the farm.” The farm spans 180 acres, and it’s home to many animals — reindeer, goats, miniature donkeys, pot belly pigs, five horses, guinea hens, rabbits, geese and chickens along with, an emu, a llama, a miniature horse, and, of course, a peacock. Ed bought the farm in 1985. When they were married in 2001, Diana joined him, transforming it from a tree farm to a place for “agricultural entertainment.” “We want our guests to enjoy the full experience of being on a farm,” she said. And what’s not to enjoy? The season gets its start on Oct. 1, when a visitor can pick pumpkins, make candy apples, visit the petting zoo, and enjoy hayrides. The Carpenters host school tours during the fall weeks — anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 school children come to visit. And they’re open to families and other guests on the weekends. “On Oct. 31, we’re done with fall,” Diana said, and the Peacock Road Tree Farm starts beginning to look a lot like Christmas. By the weekend before Thanksgiving, it’s ready to greet guests and offer many opportunities to make holiday memories. In a scene that could come straight from the North Pole, the tree farm becomes a holiday wonderland. Families can choose from a wide variety of pines to find that perfect tree. “We sell eight varieties of trees, and also sell pre-cut white pines and scotch pines we get from a local grower,” Diana explains. Diana designed a Christmas shop and wreath store with ornaments, candles, potpourri and other decorations to help families make memories of their own. A train called the “Peacock Express” meanders through the farm with a visit with Santa as its final destination. There is enough activity to keep any visitor entertained for hours. And when all the activities leave its visitors hungry and parched, two food venues offer hot dogs, hamburgers, pulled pork and other sandwiches. A confection bakery satisfies the sweet tooth. It’s clear that Diana puts her heart and soul into planning, preparing and hosting Christmas on the Farm. By the end of the holiday season, when most of us are putting our Christmas decorations in storage, Diana is looking ahead to next year. Planning starts early. “In January, we go to Chicago to buy inventory for the Christmas store at the Merchandise Mart,” said Diana. This year, Diana hopes to sell more Michigan made products. In the spring, she and Ed oversee the planting of 4,000 to 6,000 young trees. By August, the trees are shaped into traditional Christmas tree shapes. And in October, the doors are open to the public all week and every weekend for three months. Throughout all the seasons, families come to celebrate weddings and birthdays or just a family outing. Parties can rent a 150-year-old one-room schoolhouse and enjoy pony rides, a ride in a covered wagon and much more. Each year, Diana and Ed like to create a new farm experience. This October, Ed was training new racing pigs. “The little guys are real squealers,” Diana wrote on the Peacock Road Tree Farm website. Diana’s energy and dedication are admirable, but more so when you realize that this isn’t her “day job.” A typical week finds her working about 60 hours as the Acting Director of Regional & Sectoral Strategies for the State of Michigan. “We work with groups of employers and various partners to address employer workforce needs, “ Diana explained. If that weren’t enough, she and Ed also own another business — Liskey’s — operated by Diana’s stepson Jerry Carpenter. Diana and Ed also stay busy visiting four grandchildren from Ed’s two children Jerry and Sandy VanderRouest, a special education teacher in South Haven. Family, two businesses, and a day job — How does she do it all? “I operate on a little bit of sleep,” she said with a laugh. And it’s worth it to her. “I love watching families make memories on our farm,” said Diana. “It is a happy, joyful time for them and we are honored to be a part of their Christmas.”
Ann Cool, MPS, is a freelance writer who lives in Mason with her husband Bob.