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America’s heartland: Agritourism on the cusp of suburbia

Courtesy McHenry County CVB

About 50 miles northwest of Chicago, McHenry County, Ill., has a strong agricultural tradition and is now using agritourism to help keep farms in business.

“We’re kind of on the cusp of suburbia, but a great deal of our county is still rural and agricultural,” said Cort Carlson, executive director of the McHenry County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “A lot of the heritage and history of the county is farming. In the last 10 years, agritourism has evolved as a way to sustain the local family farm.”

Several major farm attractions in the county make great stops for group tours. Royal Oak Farm Orchard is an apple orchard with 12,000 trees, a country restaurant and bakeshop, and antique wagon tours for groups.

At Richardson Adventure farm, the main attraction is a 28-acre corn maze, but adventure seekers can also take a zip-line ride over the pumpkin patch. Stade’s Farm Market features hundreds of homegrown items and a pumpkin cannon in the fall.

Groups can also choose to sidestep some of the larger attractions for more authentic orchard experiences.

“We have several large attractions, but there are a lot of smaller, more boutique apple orchards dispersed throughout the county as well,” Carlson said. “If you don’t want the large, over-the-top agritourism experience, we can offer a very traditional experience, where you can spend an hour picking apples out in the country.”

For more America’s heartland:

History thrives
Cuisine that makes it good to be hungry

Agritourism’s harvest
Get hip to the urban heartland
Conner Prairie
Elkhart County’s Amish haystack
Tasting the Old World

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.