Autumn is a wonderful time to make a visit to a farm, to see and taste the bountiful harvest they have produced. Although past generations may have found this easy to do, just by visiting a relative's farm, this has become less and less common, as family farms have mostly gone the way of vinyl records and 8-track tapes. But fortunately for us, "agri-tourism" has taken up the slack, and some families who want to keep their farm, have started the practice of opening their fields up to the public, for tours and field trips. That was just the case for a farm I visited recently in northern Illinois, called "The Royal Oak Farm & Fruit Orchard." This photo collage shows some of their harvest of pumpkins, gourds, and apples.
As interest in agri-tourism has grown, so have the facilities that this farm family has added, to serve their many visitors. They have a huge pavilion, that is not only covered, but screened in, and full of picnic tables and a beautiful wood interior. They made a teepee-shaped building for the sole purpose of giving school children on field trips, an orientation to farm life. They have an extensive "U-Pick" program, plus a restaurant, carousel, playground, train, bonfire pits, petting zoo, and bakery. There are also many locations throughout the farm that have the scare crows all dressed up in their best autumn decorations, to get visitors in the spirit of the season.
Since the farm is quite large, it is fortunate that they offer a wagon ride (pulled by a family member on his John Deere tractor) that takes you by their herd of "oreo" cows, their all-important bee houses (lower left photo), their berry and pumpkin patches, as well as their orchards. The driver explained to us that the owners put a yellow flag by the row of orchard trees that is currently ready and suitable for picking by the "U-Pickers" (top right photo). If you would like information on additional attractions surrounding the Royal Oak Farm, check out this great website, www.visitmchenrycounty.com, for some very interesting suggestions.
In the produce stand area, they have containers of all the different kinds of apples they sell, chopped up for customers to taste, so you can decide which variety you want to purchase (upper left photo). They also have a well-stocked gift shop, with all kinds of gift items, or culinary items you might need for your own kitchen. When I am writing a blog post, I usually am trying to think of an appropriate Bible verse, to go along with the photos and the topic of the blog. The owners of the Royal Oak Farm & Fruit Orchard (http://www.royaloakfarmorchard.com/) made that really easy this time. The very top line on their brochure has this quote printed "He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit." John 15:5a. Likewise, the entrance of their apple barn has a large cross above the door, and they put in their brochure that the farm was established in 1992 FOR GOD'S GLORY. The entire operation serves as their testimony to God's goodness, and it has definitely been successful at "bearing fruit"! If you are interested in visiting a farm this fall, but you are not going to be able to make it to Illinois, you may be able to find one closer to your home. You can find out more about a farm in north central Arkansas by visiting the website of http://www.mountainhomeberryfarm.com/ or in the Fayetteville area by visiting http://www.ozarkcornmaze.com/ or phoning Vanzant Fruit and Produce in Lowell, Arkansas, at 479-756-3152. So, repeating the invitation on the Royal Oak Farm brochure, I will end with this invitation: COME.....TASTE.....SEE..... It will give you miles of smiles! Tricia