Eckert's Grafton Farm
Article and photos by Kathleen Walls
|Eckert's Orchard at Grafton, Illinois
Johann Peter Eckert farmed all his life in
Dietzenbach, Hesse Darmestadt, Germany. When he emigrated to
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1837
with his wife and four sons he saw no reason to change. He
went on to buy each of his sons a farm. The family had followed
the tradition down to the present
Johann's son Michael, continued his love affair with
the land at a farm called Drum Hill, near Fayetteville, Illinois.
It was here that the seeds were sown for the present day Eckerts
Orchards. It all began when he planted the first fruit trees in 1862 .
Michael's son, Henry, continued the tradition and today, the sixth and
seventh generations are justly proud of what had developed. They have
several orchards in Illinois but
the Grafton Orchard was where the real agri tourism began when
they opened the orchard for
apple pick-your-own in 1963.
|A tractor and wagon bring guests into
When I visited the orchard it was a beautiful August day. The peaches
were luscious. They hung oin the trees huge and juicy just tempting
little fingers–and big ones too.
Children romped and picked as seriously as adults and parents
reverted to their childhood. This is what tourism is all about, having
fun and bringing our your inner child. What better way to enjoy yourself
than harvesting the bounty of nature.
|A toddler bring mom
Aside from those tasty peaches, blackberry picking was in full swing. I
sampled a few of the big black berries and fell in love all over again.
My earlier memories of blackberry picking
involved paying the price of cuts and scratches to get the tasty little
morsels. Here that was replaced with the brush of green leaves against
my hands. Nary a scratch and the berries were about twicethe size of the wild
ones that are protected by tons of thorns. This must be what heaven is
The apple orchard was just coming into its own. There is something about
seeing those green apples and knowing they are rapidly turning red
almost before your eyes.
|The apples just becoming ready for
For earlier and later season fun, there are
strawberries in May and June and pumpkins in October. In addition to the
excitement of just picking and eating great fruit, Eckerts has an
outdoor petting farm where the kids can get acquainted with goats, horse
and other farm animals. There
is even miniature golf or a tire swing if you want to play instead of
They have many events such as Jumpin' Pumpkin Jamboree and Apple Fest
with wagon rides, live entertainment, great festival foods, children's
activities, pony and camel rides and much more.
|Eckert"s store is chock ful of fresh
When you finish picking you bring your produce
into the big red barn where there are so many interesting items to
enhance you pickings that you will want to plan time to browse there a
Eckerts has several other locations and a farm
store and restaurant. Be sure to visit the website and click on the
different fruit for great recipes.
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