The Magic of Merry Hill Farm
Press Releases
Written by Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau   
Wednesday, May 01, 2019 06:00 AM

Your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life. Why not have it in a landscape that, even by the lofty standards of North Carolina, will astound you. That’s Merry Hill Farm, a one-of-a-kind destination to begin the rest of your life. It feels like a manicured paradise, but it’s not too far from the twin charms of Chapel Hill and Mebane, minutes from I-40. The centerpiece is a classic, two-story white farmhouse, furnished with elegant antiques and shining chandeliers. There’s a balcony porch overlooking inspiring countryside views. It could not be more romantic.

It’s owned by Lynne Holtkamp. She’s an Orange County native, attorney, and the mother of her business partner, Grace. She sat down with us recently to tell us about the farm.

How long has the property been in your family?

Merry Hill is part of the Nelson family farm; it’s been in the family since 1754, the oldest continuously owned farm in Orange County. This is mainly due to the family's stubborn love of the land, a long line of farmers and school teachers. It’s about a mile south of Mebane, on what was a great Indian trading path to Hillsborough. The dirt road that runs through the farm is one of the oldest in the state. A family story is that the stage coach would leave the mail in the hollow of a tree. The area is also home to over 70 species of birds and is listed as an ebird hot spot.

Tell us about your family's legacy.

My mother, Mary Anne Nelson, was raised on the farm, and met my father, Jack Robinson, in a national 4 H championship. He was a farmer from Indiana, so we were raised there, but since mom was a school teacher, we spent summers here on the farm with our grandparents, Sam and Effie Nelson. Mom was a true Tar Heel and always wanted to go back to North Carolina. Eventually our family moved here in 1981. She was a die-hard-shout–at- the-TV Tar Heel fan. And before she retired, she was a Mellon Fellow at UNC.

Unfortunately, shortly after retiring, she passed away. With my father's help, Grace and I moved to the farm and lived in the house on the part known as Merry Hill. Over time, I planted roses, hydrangea, holly hedges, live oak trees, and magnolias. My thought was that one day my daughter Grace might decide to marry here. I love the way that plants, like art, can inspire and impart eternal messages. I also painted many of the paintings in the house and collected art from my beloved friends and local artists Roger Haile and Ippy and Neil Patterson, as well as others like Jacob Cooley and Ruth Russell Williams.

When did you move back and enter the weddings and events business?

When my daughter went off to college in Edinburg, I was looking for something to do with my time and with the farm to make it sustainable. Friends and family suggested that we offer it for weddings. This is our 8th year of hosting weddings. We’re so thrilled and honored to be part of such a special time for our couples and their families. Our website is, where you can get a taste of it yourself. Grace has received her doctorate, with distinction, from Oxford, and lives in London. Even so, she is very much a hands-on owner of the business, and comes home to work at the farm whenever she can.

You also have a hemp farm. How did that arise?

Diversification is what sustains Merry Hill, so we decided to grow hemp. This is our third year as a licensed hemp farm. We have several events planned around the hemp season, which begins in May. Anyone who is interested should check it out at

Your long range plans?

There are so many things we love about the farm. One of the most important is to share it with those who enjoy it as much as we do. We’re interested in projects and partnerships with the community, using the farm as a space where people can bring their imagination and gather in a naturally beautiful place, with big views, privacy, and peace. We also welcome business and event groups, photo and film shoots — we’re just wide-open. 

We’re just very fortunate to be a part of Orange County, with our wonderful, hard-working County Commissioners and officials like Sheriff Blackwood. The creative class of community leaders at the Hillsborough Chamber of Commerce, and so many others, are so supportive of farms and agritourism/agritainment activities.

Long term, we would love to partner with a hotel that could offer a unique experience in the country similar to some lovely places in England and Scotland, with gardens, outdoor activities, and a day spa.   

Thanks, Lynne.


Merry Hill Farm is truly a one-of-a-kind, almost magical place. In its celebration of beauty, art, and bucolic wonder, it’s a reflection of who we are and who we strive to be as Tar Heels — a magnificent retreat full of love’s grandeur, cultivated by the gentle and artful hands of Lynne Holtkamp.