One of the fastest growing areas of tourism in the last twenty years is agriculture-based tourism. Folks love to visit places where they can get outdoors and pick their own produce, cut down a family Christmas tree, or walk through a corn maze. Downstate Illinois is full of farms that are ready to welcome you on your upcoming agrotourism adventure!
For a truly unique and up-close experience with animals, Rainbow Ranch Petting Zoo in rural Washington County is definitely worth a trip. Aside from traditional farm animals like pigs, donkeys, and horses, Rainbow Ranch also has several exotic animals for your family to experience — from zebras and camels to a macaw and even kangaroos! The springtime is when they officially open up their season, and also when they host their Baby Bonanza, allowing visitors to bottle-feed all of the new baby animals the farm has!
Cows are the crown jewel at Marcoot Jersey Creamery as well as Rolling Lawns Farms, both of which are located in Greenville. Marcoot provides area grocery stores and restaurants with delicious cheese products and ice cream, and folks can visit their farm to purchase those fresh products, too. Rolling Lawns is all about milk products, but prepare yourself for a wide variety of tasty treats, including flavors of milk you may have never heard of. Not only do they supply the typical whole milk and two percent, but they also have chocolate, strawberry, and cappuccino varieties. Their eggnog is a huge hit around the Holidays as well. Stop by their Milk House in Greenville to take some home!
If fruit is more what you're looking for, there are so many farms to choose from. In Jasper County, Bigard's Strawberry Patch and Peach Orchard draws folks in from several surrounding counties for fresh fruit. Schwartz Orchard in Centralia has won several state and national awards for their apple cider, but even more delicious are their apple cider donuts. In Belleville, there are two farms within a mile of each other that offer pick-your-own fruits and vegetables. Braeutigam Orchards opens on June 1st and offers everything from cherries and blackberries to peaches and pumpkins. They also have a bakery on-site that has become a fan-favorite for apple cider slushies!
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A stone's throw from Braeutigam sits Eckert's, arguably the most well-known farm in Downstate Illinois. Eckert's Belleville location is open year-round, with so many u-pick opportunities — everything from berries and apples to pumpkins and Christmas trees. Their Country Store is also full of deliciousness, including locally-made products from other farms and makers. In the Fall, Eckert's opens up their Fun Farm location in Millstadt, which features a ton of family-fun activities, including a pumpkin cannon. Eckert's also has a sunflower trail for your family to walk through and have a photo op with!
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Speaking of pumpkins, there are some farms that focus solely on the Fall season. Relleke Pumpkin Patch near Pontoon Beach is open from mid-September through the end of October and offers up much more than just pumpkin picking. There are activities for all ages, from a Haunted Barn to barrel train rides! In Randolph County, Schoenbeck Ranch has fields of pumpkins as far as the eye can see. Visitors can also enjoy a corn maze, pony rides, a petting zoo, and much more. Possum Patch Farms near Olney is home to many different varieties of pumpkins and gourds and features a great general store to purchase food and crafts from! There are also hayrides available, along with flashlight pumpkin picking for something unique. Not far outside of Hoyleton in Washington County sits another farm with acres and acres of pumpkins — Country Kids Pumpkin Patch. Country Kids features pig races, pedal go-karts and a 30-foot slide to have fun on!
Grissom's Lost Creek Orchard outside of Greenup offers peaches as well, but they're famous for their pumpkins, apples and apple cider!
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Of course, directly following Fall is the Holiday season, and there are so many families who take pride in goign out to a farm to cut down their own tree. Two of the most iconic tree farms in Downstate Illinois are located in Bond County. Daniken Tree Farm is located just outside of Pocahontas and has 70 scenic acres with over 45,000 trees to choose from! Visitors can also purchase wreaths and other Christmas items from Daniken's gift shop. There's also Dahnke Family Farms just east of Martinsville in Clark County, and while trees are their specialty, they are very well-known for their reindeer. Dahnke Farms has seven reindeer with a reindeer school for folks to attend, as well as many activities for families including bonfires and a snowball arena.
Not far north of Greenville lies Randy's Country Barn, which offers eight different varieties of trees, as well as a country store with many unique gifts to buy. You may even find Santa strolling around the grounds on any given weekend!
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