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posted: 8/25/2013 6:00 AM

Area apple orchards rebound big time from last year

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  • Visiting an apple orchard in the fall is a tradition for some families.

      Visiting an apple orchard in the fall is a tradition for some families.
    Courtesy of Kuipers Family Farm

  • A youngster enjoys the fruit of his labor.

      A youngster enjoys the fruit of his labor.
    Courtesy of Kuipers Family Farm

  • A wagon tour is part of the fun of apple picking at the Royal Oak Farm Orchard in Harvard.

      A wagon tour is part of the fun of apple picking at the Royal Oak Farm Orchard in Harvard.
    Courtesy of Royal Oak Farm Orchard

  • This year area orchards are filled with a variety of apples waiting to be picked.

      This year area orchards are filled with a variety of apples waiting to be picked.
    Daily Herald file photo by GEORGE LECLAIRE/gleclai

By Samantha Nelson
Daily Herald Correspondent

Last year, local apple orchards were decimated by drought and unusual spring weather that saw blooms killed by frost. Many u-pick orchards had to close early once they ran out of stock, while some such as Woodstock's More Than Delicious Orchard and Lang's Orchard didn't have any crop at all.

But after a year of rest, the trees are filled with fruit ready for your family to pick.

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"Last year, we had no apples, so this year they're bountiful," Lang's Farm owner Chris Lang said. "They made up for last year."

The type of apples available vary by week and season closing dates may change depending on weather and stock, so be sure to call or check the orchard's website for updates.

Here is a sampling of area orchards.

More Than Delicious Orchard

9905 Thompson Road, Woodstock, (815) 575-9650,

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Sept. 6 through the end of October

Price: $60 per bushel

More Than Delicious Orchard offers about 80 varieties of apples and pears, including popular types such as golden delicious, honeycrisp, McIntosh and Cortland.

"Our main claim to fame is the variety we have," said co-owner Velma Downes. While you're there, you can also pick up local honey, apple cider, doughnuts and cinnamon rolls.

Homestead Orchard

11802 Charles Road, Woodstock, (815) 338-7443,

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday through October

Price: $1.50 per pound

Owner Don Burda said the harvest this year is tremendous with trees packed with 23 varieties of apples including McIntosh, gala, honeycrisp and Jonathan.

"We prune the trees so that the children in families can also pick," Burda said.

After apple picking, visitors can stop in the 1880s horse barn, which has been converted into a store selling Amish-made jam, jelly and salsa along with antiques.

Kuipers Family Farm

1N318 Watson Road, Maple Park, (815) 827-5200,

Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through October

Price: $9 admission includes a quarter-peck bag of apples; $15 for an additional peck

This year's cool weather has put the trees here a bit behind schedule, but you'll be able to pick some early-season varieties such as Zestar, Sansa and Blondie.

Admission includes a hayride and, new this year, the orchard is offering a petting zoo of goats and sheep that's usually only available during pumpkin season. There also will be pig races starting in September.

Homemade kettle corn is another new addition, complementing the always-popular apple cider doughnuts.

Lang's Orchard

17411 Secor Road, Woodstock, (815) 568-7547,

Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday through Wednesday, Sept. 7 through mid-October

Price: $14 a peck or $14 for a half peck of honeycrisp

The early crop here includes gala, McIntosh and honeycrisp. Come Sept. 21, you'll be able to pick Smell Sweet, a new apple to the area. Lang's Orchard also has a small store that stocks handicrafts and fruit spreads with no sugar added.

Prairie Sky Orchard

4914 N. Union Road, Union, (815) 923-4834,

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily Saturday, Aug. 31 through Oct. 31

Price: $2 per pound

The small orchard has 2,000 dwarf apple trees, making it easy for kids to pick their six varieties including honeycrisp, gala and golden delicious.

Kids can also climb on straw bales and a giant chair that holds 15 people that's popular with families looking for a photo opportunity. A small store stocks doughnuts, pies, cider, jams and jellies.

Royal Oak Farm Orchard

15908 Hebron Road, Harvard, (815) 648-4141,

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday through Nov. 16

Price: $20 for a peck-sized bag

This year has brought an excellent crop of Royal Oak's 29 varieties including galas, McIntosh and honeycrisp. The orchard also has raspberry picking and by mid-September you'll be able to pick pumpkins.

Some families have been coming to the orchard every fall for 15 years, taking advantage of the many attractions for kids including a carousel, playground, petting zoo, wagon tours through the orchards and concerts along with the gift shop, bakery, restaurant and educational seminars.

"It's just a great place to build a family tradition," said special events coordinator Sarah Bell.

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