This sprawling orchard is loaded with exciting interactive activities, including the chance to cut your own Christmas tree. Learn how this family farm continues to grow each year.
Autumn is not complete without a visit to the orchard. And when you visit Kuipers Family Farm in Maple Park, Ill., the first thing you’ll notice is the aroma.
The smell of freshly-baked pies, hand-spun caramel apples and those delicious, unforgettable apple cider donuts permeate the crisp, cool air.
Add in a pumpkin patch, apple orchard, farm animals, a Christmas tree farm and plenty of activities for kids and you’ve got the perfect family-friendly destination.
Every year, it seems the farm takes on some new attraction, just as it has from the very beginning, in 1998, when the Kuipers family opened a modest pumpkin patch on its 71-acre property.
“We thought the all farms we were going to had a lot of fun stuff to look at, but our kids wanted to climb on everything,” says Kim Kuipers, who owns the family farm with her husband, Wade. “So, we decided to start our own farm that was more interactive for kids.”
Families soon caught onto the attraction and in 2001, the Kuipers purchased the 160-acre apple orchard across the street.
“This larger side of the farm grew really fast over a three or four-year period,” Kuipers says. “It’s been a real family business for us ever since the beginning, and it has grown a lot. It’s grown really fast, because when we first started, there was nothing here.”
Now in its 18th season, the farm offers plenty of fun, just as the Kuipers originally envisioned. Taking a hayride to the fields and picking apples in the orchard are some of the always-popular attractions.
Picking apples here is unlike most other experiences you’ll encounter around this region. That’s because there’s an orchard attendant on staff at Kuipers. Guests find it’s helpful to consult with this expert, who has a good grasp of everything you’ll find among the 160-acre orchard and more than 30 apple varieties.
“The attendant will tell you about the variety of apples that you’re picking and how they can be used, since some apples are good for baking and others are better to eat fresh,” Kuipers says. “They’ll also teach you the correct way to pick an apple. A lot of places, you just walk out there and you’re on your own.”
Of course, no visit is complete without a visit to The Orchard Shop loaded with candles, dips, apple cider and, of course, those unmistakable apple cider donuts made fresh in the bakery.
“People get very excited about those apple cider donuts each year,” Kuipers says.
As fall comes to a close and winter approaches, the Kuipers turn their attention toward the family’s Christmas tree harvest, which begins the day after Thanksgiving. Families are invited to select, harvest and haul away their own tree. And while they’re at it, they can savor one last taste of those apple cider donuts.
“We’ll give you a saw and you can cut down your own tree,” Kuipers says. “It’s fun and families enjoy it, but I don’t know if the dads like it as much because they’re the ones lying on the ground and cutting the tree.”
If you don’t want to cut your own tree, Kuipers also offers a large selection of harvested, precut Fraser Firs.
In the quieter days after Halloween, the orchard becomes a wedding venue, with about 40 to 50 events happening between November and mid-August. Scenic, rolling hills on the orchard provide the perfect backdrop for photos, and a barn area holds receptions indoors.
“Our orchard facility offers all of the amenities needed for the comfort of our guests and can be easily tailored for a rustic-chic wedding or more of an upscale garden wedding in the orchard,” Kuipers says.
New things are always arriving at the Kuipers farm, and this year is no exception. The orchard shop is offering Kuipers Spiced Red Wine, a new spiced red wine blended with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and other spices to create a perfect fall wine.
“You can drink it at room temperature, but you can also heat it up and drink it warm on a nice, cool fall day,” Kuipers says. “It’s really good, and we think it’ll be a big hit this fall.”
Perennial wine selections include a sweet red, a cherry and the crowd favorite: sparkling peach. The wine at Kuipers is made at a winery and cidery in Michigan.
When you visit the farm this year, be sure to check out the bright yellow barn. That’s the bee barn, and it was originally only open for visiting schoolkids. This year, however, it’s taking on a new life.
“There are plenty of materials in the barn that teach kids about the importance of honey bees and pollination,” Kuipers says. “This year, we completely remodeled it and brought it forward, so the general customer will be able to visit it, learn about the bees and see an observation hive.
“We’re excited to give this to customers, especially since backyard beekeeping has become so trendy.”
Things can get pretty busy at the farm on weekends, and Kuipers wants to continue making things as easy as possible. A visit on the weekday, for example, brings smaller crowds, better parking and more access to favorite activities.
The farm closes for the season on Dec. 15.