5911 W. 50 South, LaPorte, IN
Harvest Season lends itself to "You Pick" activities
The start of Fall is harvest season. What better way to spend a weekend morning or afternoon than to go apple picking! Living in the heart of the City of Chicago doesn’t generally lend itself to doing something like apple picking everyday. If you’re willing to plan ahead and go for a drive just across state lines, Garwood Orchards is well worth a family trip for a you-pick apple picking experience for any age and any number of extended family members.
Located about 60 miles from downtown Chicago, Garwood Orchards is nestled in the heartland farming community of LaPorte Indiana. While there are You-Pick Apple Orchards a tad closer to the city (40+ miles West or North), this choice tends to be a little quieter and a little cheaper. Having been to other orchards on family trips (& field trips during my teaching days), if you’re willing to drive just another 15-20 miles to Indiana, Garwood is well worth the trip! Once you get outside typical city traffic you don’t even notice the extra miles.
New this year for apple picking season is, a $5 per person entrance fee (ages 3+). It now includes your peck, ½ bushel or full bushel bags (they used to charge per bag), pony ride (for children 8 and under- given that it is a “mini” horse- have you seen minis? They are THE cutest), live music near the picnic pavilion and horse drawn and/or tractor drawn wagon rides throughout the orchard and parking. It’s well worth the fee. Garwood is a 400+ acre farm run by the 6th generation of the Garwood family. Their “Upick” is open from June-October! You can pick a variety of berries, vegetables, apples (peak apple season is August- October) and pumpkins (October). They also have an incredible Farm shop with local meats, fruit, veggies, canned good (salsas, jams, sauces) and baked goods!
After parking in the designated field, it’s a short walk to the entrance and just past that horse drawn and tractor drawn wagons are lined up waiting to take you to the fields. Depending on the week, Garwood farmers will inform you of what variety of apples are available for picking (different apples grow at different points in the season). There are usually 2-3 varieties to pick. It’s beautiful! Watch your children wonder at the orchards, enjoy them ogling the horses and/or tractors and hold on tight to your littles ones (or grandma!) as you bump your way to stop off points. There are apple picking ladders available for the most serious pickers. And it’s easy to hitch a ride to the next variety of apple (or back to the main pavilion)- we never waited more than 2 minutes at the end of an orchard row for a wagon to come our way.
The farmers and farm hands are all deliciously midwestern in their friendliness. There are port-o-pottys and port-o-sinks on location and picnic tables and benches to sit, munch on apples or anything from their on-site grill “restaurant” (packed lunches and drinks are welcome too). There aren’t any changing tables available, but no farmer bats an eye for any babies needing changing (or nursing)!
We went on a particularly warm September day and while we enjoyed the sunshine, warm weather on an orchard means the bees are out (we had 3 stings amongst those present in our group- but remarkably no tears from tot, mom or grandma!). Pack snacks, water bottles, wipes, bee sting necessities and precautions (Benadryl to have in your car or backpack or an Epipen for those who have a known allergy). Bring a baby carrier and/or wagon (for toting young kids and full bags of apples. When you’re done with your adventure, you pay per pound as you walk out. At the end of our picking time, we paid $1.49 per lb- pricier than the local grocery store but the taste will make you realize why farm fresh is truly the best. And of course, you can buy as little or as many apples as you want or can carry. Our 3rd year in a row, September apple picking is now officially a family tradition for us to welcome Fall! And once again, we now have apple sauce to make and apple crumble to devour!