Last weekend we packed up the kids, headed across the river and spent the whole day at Eckert's Farms in Belleville. Over the last few years, Eckert's has quickly become one of the kids' favorite places to go, not only because they get to pick their own fruits and veggies (we've done strawberries and strawberries and apples and pumpkins (pre-kids)), but because there so much to do there. Both kids basically know their way around the place by now and as soon as we get out of the car, they head straight through the garden center and greenhouse, out to the tractor. Mac is obsessed with this old green tractor and is convinced that he'll be able to drive it out to the fields if only he can figure out the right combination of levers to pull and pedals to push. I think he'd spend all day just on the tractor if I let him.
(thank you Katelyn for the photo!!)
Once I drag Mac off the tractor, we grab our picking baskets and get on the trailer (pulled by a tractor) that takes us out to the fields. Right now it's prime blackberry picking season, so that was at the top of our list. Peaches are also just starting and there are tons of veggies and flowers that you can also pick at Eckert's. My kids have a very limited attention span, so we do one crop at a time. Today...BLACKBERRIES!!
This was my first time picking blackberries at Eckert's, although I've been picking wild blackberries for years. My dad's farm is covered with wild blackberries, that are small, tart and covered with thorns. However, at Eckert's the blackberries were bigger and juicier than I've ever seen in my life. They were like picking candy! We spent the first ten minutes eating every single berry we picked and I got a little worried we wouldn't stop eating them long enough to bring any home. But we managed.
I was really surprised by how easy blackberry picking was compared to the wild blackberry picking I'm used to. The rows of blackberries at Eckert's were wide and the vines grew on trellises that angled in and up, so you could pick at any height level - perfect for tall daddies (that don't want to bend over all day) and tiny littles (that can't reach too high). Plus, the blackberries here don't have thorns!
Once we picked enough to fill our baskets, it was back on the tractor and time for lunch! Eckert's not only has the fruit picking, but there's also a restaurant, a grocery store/farmer's market, a garden center, greenhouse, frozen custard shop and outdoor kids carnival with games, rides and ponies! Of course the kids wanted to do ALL OF IT...so we did. The restaurant serves the most amazing crispy biscuits with homemade apple butter and I've heard the fried chicken is out of this world.
After lunch we hit the custard stand and the kids both got a mint chocolate chip concrete and I got a s'mores sundae. They ate theirs and mine. Next up was the kids carnival where they both insisted on riding the little train. Mac rang the bell the entire time, while Mim squealed in delight.
Last stop before heading home was the pony rides. Mac rode a pony once when he was teeny tiny, but this was Mim's first time. They both loved it and were so sweet to their horses. Mimmy kept leaning over trying to give hers a hug and saying "I wuv you, Maggie" and Mac asked a million questions on the way home about his horse Pumpkin and when we were going to get him his own pony. Keep wishing kid.
It was such a fun day and the kids keep asking when we're going to go back and pick more fruit and visit their ponies. Mim is obsessed with the blackberries and ate her weight in them for the next week, while Mac's really really ready for peaches, which is one of his favorite fruits. I used the blackberries we didn't eat to make homemade blackberry preserves and blackberry mojitos. SO good! I'm definitely going to need more.
Anyone else been blackberry picking?
*I was not compensated in any way for this post. We were given vouchers from Eckert's for some of these experiences in exchange for our honest review and feedback. All love for blackberries, ponies and custard belong to us.