You don’t need a sleigh or a ticket to the North Pole to see reindeer in the Ozarks. It is as simple as a drive to Prescott Family Reindeer Farm, a destination in rural Douglas County that offers a Christmas experience – complete with real-life, intricately-antlered reindeer – to delight young and young at heart.
The experience is family-focused, with youngsters peering eye-level through fences to see and pet reindeer, which represent the Christmas spirit even through their names: Noel, Tinsel, Winter, Snowflake and Mistletoe.
“I know how to feed the reindeer – like we do the horses,” a young voice announced while in line. Others asked: “Where’s Rudolph?”
Rudolph’s not there, but Santa and Mrs. Claus are often at the farm. With the $10 admission, visitors can visit with reindeer, see other farm animals – including llamas, miniature horses and cattle – write a letter to Santa, play games, have a fun fight with soft white foam “snowballs” and more.
“Our biggest hassle honestly has been just convincing people that this is real,” says Sara Prescott, who owns the farm with her husband, Michael. “People still come out and say, ‘What is this?’ Sometimes reindeer are mythical, like the unicorn.”
At the farm, stops may include visits with Santa, seeing other farm animals, sampling hot cocoa and taking home a stuffed animal from the gift shop.
Moving to the Ozarks
It was the couple’s desire for a greater work and family balance that led them to the Missouri Ozarks from Illinois in 2019.
“Our cattle operation continued to grow. It felt like we were living in our vehicles all the time, we were driving all the time and we had young children,” Prescott says of their experience in Illinois. “We wanted to keep expanding our herd, but we said, ‘We either have to downsize, or we have to find property where we can live and raise the cattle.’
“We actually viewed about 40 farms here in Missouri, all over the state, before everything kind of got crazy, thank God. We ended up here, and we just love it.”
The reindeer came next. After visiting a reindeer farm elsewhere, Prescott decided it was something to start in the Missouri Ozarks.
“My husband and I have been raised in ag our whole entire lives,” says Prescott. “I think it was just the opportunity to learn something so different and unique that it just kind of caught my eye.”
Visiting the reindeer farm
Visitors to the farm can add their name to the community Christmas tree, write letters to Santa, explore the gift shop, among other activities.
On a chilly but pleasant Friday evening, families wandered among the farm’s stops. Austynn Berning, 6, and her nearly 5-year-old brother, Easton, were excited for both the reindeer and horses.
“It’s good,” Austynn says, “Because there’s a lot of horses – and reindeer.”
“I like the reindeer when they fly,” adds Easton. “And reindeers go fast!”
Inside a building where a Christmas tree stands tall, a greeter asks people to become part of the community Christmas tree by writing their family name on a star and how many people visited with them.
There’s a gift shop with Christmas toys (and lots of reindeer), among other items, as well as plenty of spots for photos. Activities vary a bit from day to day, but on this particular crisp evening, here may even be stories with Santa and Mrs. Claus around the tree.
“It’s really cool. This is awesome – so cute,” says Brady Sharp of West Plains, who came with her family to the farm. “It’s like a little Hallmark movie.”
Nearby, her daughter Norah writes a letter to Santa.
“A Gabby dollhouse boat,” says Sharp of a dollhouse-type toy tied to a show that her daughter wants. “We got the Amazon catalog in the mail and she found it and circled it and said, ‘That’s what I want.’”
Stories with the Clauses happens occasionally while the farm is open.
The farm is open on Dec. 22 and 23 to round out the 2023 season, but Prescott says she hopes that in the future, the farm may be open at times other than just at Christmas.
“In the springtime we’re hoping for baby reindeer and would love to open up the farm again so people can see another side of how the reindeer look in the spring,” Prescott says, also noting that they’d like to have food-based experiences like a farm-to-fork dinner.
Ultimately, it comes back to another component of the experience: education.
“We just enjoy being able to open up the farm and let other people see what it's like with farms,” she says. “What we've realized is that a lot of people are two generations away from the farm life anymore. Our children get to grow up with this every day, get to enjoy farm life, and we just want to be able to open it up so that other people can enjoy it as well.”