4 Reasons to Visit a Pick-Your-Own Farm in Illinois’ Great Rivers & Routes Region

Take a road trip to the Great Rivers & Routes region of Illinois for an unforgettable pick-your-own farm experience in Grafton, Illinois.

Fall is right around the corner and that means the harvest season is upon us. Why not celebrate this abundant time with a road trip to a pick-your-own farm in Illinois?

If you haven’t explored the picturesque Great Rivers & Routes region, you will want to put it on your list. Named for its proximity to three great rivers, the Mississippi, the Illinois and the Missouri, the region also has some of the best pick-your-own farms in Illinois.

Eckert’s Country Store and Farms in Grafton, Illinois, is one of the most popular destinations in the area. Located on the beautiful Mississippi bluffs, this eighth-generation family farm offers pick-your-own crops plus affordable family entertainment.

“It’s super cool on a Saturday to see families come together and create memories,” says Angie Eckert, Director of Retail Operations. “We love to see returning guests who came here as children and are now bringing their grandchildren to Eckert’s.”

Food, family tradition and fall harvest: we’re in! Here are four more reasons to visit a pick-your-own farm in Illinois’ Great Rivers and Routes region:

You’ll get hands-on experience with food, nature and healthy eating.

Kids will get real-life experience with the freshness and good taste of locally grown produce. Plus, seeing how food grows can give kids new respect for nature and the environment. For kids not used to growing their own food, this can be a revelation.

Eckert says that she loves watching kids discover the unmatched taste of freshly picked produce. “Watching kids pick our fruits and vegetables is one of my favorite things to see in the field. They are amazed at how fresh everything tastes and so proud that they picked their own food.”

Pick-your-own farms like Eckert’s post crop reports so that you can find out what’s available that day, week or month. Seasonal offerings for things like apples, blackberries and pumpkins teach how weather and soil conditions affect the growth of fruits and vegetables. Kids will also have a chance to interact with farmers and ask them questions about food production.

Another bonus: your child or family members may find some new flavors and healthy food favorites.

You are supporting local agriculture and sustainable farming.

Producing food is hard work. Kids will get an appreciation for the dedication and effort involved in making sure that we get fresh, high-quality produce. Many farms have adopted sustainable farming practices, which affect the environment.

“We were sustainable before it really even became a concept,” Eckert says. “We are very in tune with resting the crops, rotating plantings and our nourishment to the plant is top notch. We avoid over planting and take care of our soil to avoid pests and disease.”

Sustainability determines not only what crops are planted, but also the length of the growing season, Eckert explains. “We carefully plan our crops to ensure fresh produce throughout the seasons. Our practices extend to the varieties of produce we grow because they all grow a little bit differently. Our goal is to have crops available for our guests from April through October each year.”

By bringing your kids to a pick-your-own farm, you’re not just taking them on a day out. You’re also teaching them responsible stewardship of the land. 

You’ll find unique family entertainment, shopping and food.

It’s not every day that a kid from the city or suburbs gets a tractor ride out to the fields to pick produce. “People come to our farm as adults and tell us that they can still remember their tractor rides to the field years later. It really makes an impression,” says Eckert.

Many pick-your-own farms in the area offer fall festivals for the family with mazes, food, special events and much more.

For example, Eckert’s Country Store and Farms in Grafton offers a deluxe playground and petting farm. On weekends in late September and October, they have loads of family entertainment. Play mini golf, take a pony or camel ride and experience the Golden Goat Bridge. 

Area pick-your-own farms also offer hayrides, roadside stands and daily or weekly events throughout the seasons.

If you want to do a little shopping, you’re in luck. Many pick-your-own farms also feature country stores. You’ll find a paradise of unique home decor, already-picked produce and farm-fresh baked goods. 

Eckert’s Farm and Country Store is one of the biggest country stores in the area. Besides fresh produce they offer apple cider, homemade apple and pumpkin butter, honey, Amish salsas, jams and jellies. The Grafton location also includes a limited selection of delicious bakery treats that change with the seasons. Cider doughnuts, anyone?

It’s a family-friendly outing for all ages.

Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, younger kids, older kids: a pick-your-own farm in Illinois’ Great Rivers & Routes region has a universal appeal. Whether the stunning scenery, the fresh food or the joy of being outdoors, there is something for everyone.

“We love to see so many generations of families come together at our farm and have a great time. And we love to connect people with food,” says Eckert.

For more information and to plan your trip, visit riversandroutes.com

Jennifer Kales
Jennifer Kales
Content editor Jennifer Kales has been in the business of writing for more than 20 years creating advertising copy, blogs, books and everything in between. She loves helping Chicago Parent clients tell their stories in a way that resonates with audiences.

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