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Image: Belding Hill Farms

Local Farm Creates Christmas Market With European Twist

By Scott Pettigrew Dec 4, 2022 | 8:00 AM

A European-style, open-air Christmas market just outside of Saint John is finding success in its first season of spreading the holiday spirit.

“The truest sign that we feel like we’re on the right path is that when you look around the market, it’s nothing but smiles,” says Luke Coleman, who operates Belding Hill Farms in Hampton with his wife, Jill. While the small-scale farm operates year round, the Colemans decided to take on a new venture, creating their very own Christmas market that will run from mid-November to mid-December.

The couple got the idea for the European-style, open-air market while visiting Germany nearly a decade ago.

Belding Hill Farm has a long history in the Coleman family; Luke and Jill are fifth-generation farmers.

“It’s a tremendous sense of pride for me to be able to say that my great great grandfather, my great grandfather, my grandfather, my father, and I have all raised animals on this property,” Luke says.

After Covid-19 hit and restrictions on gatherings began, the Colemans saw an opportunity to use their farm as a gathering place for people who wanted to get out of the house and connect in an outdoor setting.

Eventually, they landed on the idea to extend the farm visits into the early winter season by creating a market like the ones they experienced in Germany.

“I’m in my happy place when I’m building things,” says Luke. He also owns a small sawmill which supplied the lumber for the market buildings. With the help of family and friends, the Colemans built the infrastructure for the open-air market, which supports almost 40 unique vendors.

“From the outset of this whole project, we said our number-one thing is that we want our customers to enjoy it. A secondary thing was we wanted the vendors to be successful,” he says. He adds that they made a concerted effort to not have duplicate vendors and that all vendors were local purveyors of genuine, handmade goods.

Luke says they’ve got a great mix of unique wares at the market, from Sussex’s Country Bakery, to Galbraith Florist in Rothesay, plus many more in between including handmade jewelry, ornaments, toys and clothes.

Visitors to the farm can also sample some Gluhwein, mulled red wine.  And on the suggestion of a patron who hails from Germany, a non-alcoholic ‘kinderpunch’ may soon be on the menu too.

Topping off the Christmas experience for Coleman is the chance to play the man of the season, Father Christmas.

“I’ve spent about seven hours now getting my beard dyed grey. Just playing that role and having the kids be excited – it’s beyond cool,” he says.

Earlier in the season, after popping out of the market to run an errand, Luke made quite the impression upon his return.

“When I come back to market I kind of there’s a spot that I have to kind of step through. And when I step through, I look to my left and just at that moment, a little fellow was coming up the path. He spied me, just step out from nowhere essentially, and his face lit up like a Christmas tree,” Coleman recounts. “He just left mom and dad behind took off running!  I just had enough time to kind of bend down when he threw his arms around me and gave me the biggest hug. So that’s been really fun!”

Coleman isn’t happy to just rest on the laurels of the current success of the market.  He has other aspirations for the new environment that he has created on his farm.

“A couple of the craft brewers that are that we have here are already talking about potentially doing a craft brewery festival. And it would be a perfect fit because the booths are already built,” he says.

The European Christmas Market will run for two more weekends this season. Tickets are available online and walk-ins are welcome, but there are capacity limits.

Alex Graham is a reporter with Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.


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