Merry Hill Farm


By Laurie Paolicelli

Lynne Holtkamp (left) and Grace Holtkamp in their Merry Hill Hemp field in Orange County.

Merry Hill Farm is a one-of-a-kind destination in Orange County. 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’s owned by Lynne Holtkamp. She’s an Orange County native, attorney, and the mother of her business partner, Grace Holtkamp, who has become more active in operating Merry Hill Farm and its new Hemp enterprise. We sat down with Lynne and her daughter Grace and asked them about the Farm’s history in Orange County.

Welcome to Merry Hill.

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,” says Lynne. “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. Hotspots are public birding locations created by eBird users.

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.”

When Mary Anne Nelson passed away, Lynne and her daughter Grace moved to the farm and lived in the house on the part known as Merry Hill. Over time, they planted roses, hydrangea, holly hedges, live oak trees, and magnolias.

When Lynne’s daughter went off to college in Edinburg, Lynne was looking for something to make the farm sustainable. Friends and family suggested that it be offered for weddings. Since they began the weddings business, hundreds of weddings have taken place at Merry Hill Farm.

Grace Holtkamp.

“After my daughter Grace moved back from an accomplished academic chapter in London and Oxford University, we worked on a diversification and sustainability plan that focused on Hemp.

“Hemp, unlike marijuana, is grown for grain, textiles, even building materials,” Holtcamp said.

“Physiologically the plants are almost identical, the distinction between the two is a legal distinction. From an agronomy perspective, raising the plants would be very similar.”

Merry Hill Hemp Products.

Today, on the same fields and pastures that were chartered to the family in 1754, the Holtkamps are happy to grow hemp for the first time since it was banned almost 100 years ago. Merry Hill is a member of the North Carolina Agritourism Association, the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, the Orange County Chamber of Commerce, and the Southeast Hemp Association.  ​

The 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp in all 50 states opened exciting potential for the crop.

“We are an industrial hemp producer licensed by the USDA. We grow and sell a range of different strains of cannabinoid rich hemp, without herbicides or pesticides, and using natural fertilizers. Our hemp is available fresh, cured, and even as part of pick your owns and harvest parties and events when in season,” says Grace.

“We buy our hemp clones (baby plants) from NC nurseries, and plant, grow, and cure our crop on our farmland. We also have open events to the public to meet our community and help people learn about hemp. Plus, you can buy straight off the farm in season, and even pick your hemp yourself.”

Merry Hill Farm offers America’s first Hemp Pick Your Own opportunity.

We are proud to supply hemp to Oak City Hemp. Oak City Hemp is a local brand that carries a number of quality organic hemp products. You can find them in local shops around NC and online at We are also proud to supply hemp to The Microgreenery. Check out their website at, or email them at

“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 are so supportive of farms and agritourism activities.”

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 and her daughter, Grace.

To talk with a leader of the events team, email:

Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.

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