Fresh Air and Fun Await on Illinois Farms This Fall
Beautiful fall days coupled with space to roam continue to provide ample opportunity to visit Illinois farms welcoming guests this fall. Most seasonal agritourism destinations across the state will be open at least through Halloween, and some well into the month of November, like Liberty Apple Orchard, which grows 14 varieties of apple trees near Edwardsville.
“With over 1,000 large trees, the orchard provides plenty of room for social distancing and a healthy and happy outing for families,” says Lugene Miller, who operates the orchard with her husband, Steve Miller.
Liberty Apple Orchard, along with several other Illinois orchards and agritourism destinations like pumpkin patches and corn mazes, took several COVID-19 prevention measures to help ensure farm visits are safe this fall. For example, Liberty Apple Orchard:
- Requires employees to wear masks and to wear gloves when handling money.
- Expanded cleaning and disinfection practices, including frequent employee hand-washing, hand sanitizer for guests and frequent disinfecting of surfaces.
- Uses contactless card readers for purchases.
- Installed on-site signage to encourage social distancing at a minimum of 6 feet.
- Constructed a new farm market building to provide more space for social distancing among guests and students on field trips.
“The additional space will allow us to better serve our guests for years to come with pre-picked apples, cider, apple butter and apple sauce made from our apples, local honey and baked goods,” says Miller.
Fall family traditions remain important to Jonamac Orchard in Malta too, but they’re also provided differently this year to help protect the DeKalb County orchard’s staff and guests.
“We’re just trying to do the best we can to let (guests) have their traditions. They may have to plan ahead, especially during peak fall days. We want everyone to be safe,” says Jenna Spychal, a third-generation co-owner of the family orchard.
They also developed new health and safety policies and procedures before opening their store, bakery and U-pick agritourism operation. Jonamac Orchard and several other agritourism businesses are controlling foot traffic and reducing congested areas. At Jonamac, for exmple, customers need to go online to select a date and time to visit; however, the website ticket process will allow only a limited number of visitors at a time, Spychal notes. The orchard also monitors the number of customers in its buildings.
To find a wide variety of Illinois farms that offer opportunities for visits, check out the Illinois Specialty Growers Association website, which offers the Market Maker online search tool. It’s probably best to plan ahead and not just show up for a visit as some are limiting attendance. Once you find a farm you may want to visit, check out the farm’s website and social media pages or call ahead for the most up-tp-date information to help ensure your visit is fun, tasty and safe.
– By Mike Orso and Kay Shipman, Illinois Farm Bureau