When Jim and Denise Severt first opened their Merrill farm to the public in 2010, they hoped people would come for some fun while learning a little about the farming heritage of the community.
“I like to show children where their food comes from,” Jim said.
“Grampa’s Farm” has proven popular, drawing as many as 2,000 people on a weekend.
The Severts encourage families to bring their children to enjoy the farm while learning about the “old days.” Activities include a petting zoo, puppet show, pony rides, hand laundry, corn shelling, cow milking, huge sandboxes, a hayride to the pumpkin patch and a corn maze. Kids can make a corn cob doll, apple cider, ice cream, butter and a log stamp.
“To see kids play on a haystack for an unlimited amount of time with no iPod or electronic entertainment warms my heart,” Jim said.
The family has created a farming museum and education center in the hayloft of the 1934 barn. Photos, storyboards and antique items tell the history of Merrill area agriculture, while hands-on demonstrations give visitors an idea of what life on the farm was like for past generations. The barn also includes a replica of a one-room country school.
Anyone who saw Merrill High School’s production of “Oklahoma!” will recognize the new additions inside the barn. Jim purchased the set, which includes a barn and a farmhouse, and incorporated them seamlessly into the Grampa’s Farm display.
Also new this year is a working windmill. The 115-year-old windmill was purchased in Tomahawk, disassembled, moved to the Severt farm, restored and reassembled this year. A new playground area was also constructed this year.
Along with being open to the public for two weekends in October, Grampa’s Farm now hosts a number of school classes and other groups such as Girl Scouts, Pine Crest residents and Lincoln Industries clients on the weekdays.
“The older folks like the animals as much as the kids do, and they remember the older stuff,” Denise said.
Grampa’s Farm will be open this weekend from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $8 per person (children 2 and under free), with all activities included. The farm is located at W2613 Norwegian Rd., Merrill.
Every child who attends can receive a free pumpkin from the pumpkin patch, which is a stop on the hayride.
Grampa’s Farm features an extensive petting zoo, including sheep, goats, deer, pigs, chicks, calf, bunnies, guinea pigs and a miniature donkey. A cow has even volunteered to assist in hands-on milking demonstrations. Pony rides are also offered.
A concession stand has food available for purchase. The sale of cotton candy and caramel apples at the Red Shed will benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
The Severt family and friends have come together to help with the Grampa’s Farm. At any given time, about 20 volunteers are working to keep everything running smoothly.
The farm was originally purchased by Clarence Peterson, whose daughter Minnie married Adolf Severt. They had two children, June and Matt. Jim bought the farm from his parents, Matt and Virginia Severt. Jim and Denise have lived on the farm for over 40 years.