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Farm Tours for Student Groups

In fall, nothing beats a trip to your local apple orchard, where you can sip a glass of crisp apple cider and relish the autumn scenery before winter sets in. Here are five orchards that are guaranteed to be memorable parts of student and youth group trips.

Apple Holler

Sturtevant, Wisconsin

Originally established as a dairy farm, Apple Holler now grows more than 30,000 dwarf trees and 30 varieties of apples. The farm offers a range of fun, educational experiences, from gemstone mining to a barnyard puppet show for preschoolers.

During the fall, Johnny Appleseed comes to life to teach visitors about the history of apple farming in a special musical at the Red Barn Theatre. Stroll down the Johnny Appleseed history walk, and then tour the orchard on a tractor-drawn wagon.

“Kids learn about our integrated pest management and earth-friendly growing beds, plus the importance of bees and pollination,” said sales and marketing manager Sheri Gavin.

After you have had your fill of apple picking, stop by the Kid’s Corral, the Crazy Corn Maze or the Giant Slide.

www.appleholler.com

Russell Orchards

Ipswich, Massachusetts

After the hayride at Russell Orchards, fill a one-quarter-peck bag with apples, make some friends in the animal barnyard and sample a cup of fresh-pressed cider.

“It’s a great opportunity for students and teachers to see what life is like on a real New England working farm,” said owner Miranda Russell.

Student groups are also treated to a Q&A session about the life cycle of apple trees and a video presentation of the picking and cider-making processes.

If you are not sure what fruit is in season, wander through the Interactive Fruit Garden, which contains small plantings of all the fruit currently grown on the farm, such as peaches, pears, plums and raspberries. Before you leave, make sure to stop by the store to watch the orchard’s famous cider doughnuts being made from scratch.

www.russellorchards.com

Treworgy Orchards

Levant, Maine

Get ready for an interactive, agricultural experience at Treworgy Orchards. During the tour, a guide demonstrates how to judge an apple’s ripeness by seed color. You will learn why the corn maze location must change each year and why pumpkins are planted on raised beds.

“We’re trying as much as we can to let kids learn things hands on because that engages their attention,” said owner Patty Treworgy.

In the afternoon, grab a cone of soft-serve from the popular ice cream shop, or explore the longest running corn maze in Maine. The maze’s most recent theme is the Good Knight and the Dragon, though the pattern changes each year.

“We have schools come back year after year, and the teachers tell us that this is their favorite field trip,” Treworgy said.

www.treworgyorchards.com

Weaver’s Orchard

Morgantown, Pennsylvania

As a fourth-generation family farm, Weaver’s Orchard continues to provide top-quality local produce, from fruits and vegetables to artisan cheeses and free-range meats.

“Many students have lost connection with the source of their food. Our tours offer them a great way to learn where their food comes from and, in turn, gain a new appreciation for healthy living,” said orchard employee Vonda Stoltzfus.

During fall tours, a guide will take the group to pick apples in the orchard, visit the packing house, observe a commercial cider press and enjoy a snack of fresh cider and pretzels. Weaver’s also presents Young Farmer tours in spring and summer that focus on planting and berry picking. Other educational resources for teachers can be found on the farm’s website.

www.weaversorchard.com

Los Rios Rancho

Oak Glen, California

Experience life as a pioneer at Los Rios Rancho, which offers living-history tours based on the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder. This historic adventure will take you on a horse-drawn hayride through the woods to an authentic log cabin, where selections from Wilder’s books, including “Little House in the Big Woods” and “Farmer Boy,” are discussed.

Later, savor a hot caramel-dipped apple, and make your own cider with a vintage press. Groups can choose one additional activity as part of the tour; choices include toy-making, butter churning, candle dipping, tinsmithing and visiting the petting zoo. 

For a more traditional orchard excursion, follow the Apple Trail, and learn how apples travel from branch to packing house and, eventually, the grocery store.

www.losriosrancho.com

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