Find the farms near Champaign-Urbana where the farmers invite you to visit
It’s no secret that Champaign-Urbana is a micro-urban oasis among the corn and soybean fields of Central Illinois. Over the years we’ve lived here, we’ve come to embrace the seasonality of agriculture and how it impacts our economy and enriches our lives — not to mention how it impacts our tummies. We’re lucky that we don’t have to rely solely on farm-to-table restaurants to ensure we eat locally; we can go visit farms, as well as farmers markets, in order to put local food directly on our tables.
Many farms in and around Champaign-Urbana have decided to open their doors, barns, and fields to the public. Some are more obvious than others, such as u-pick farms: there’s something special about going into a field to pick the perfect blueberries or apples.
We’ve put together a list of Champaign-Urbana area working farms where the public can visit and families can enjoy some fun together. These cover a wide range in terms of how “open” they are, so please read carefully. Some are open seasonally; some have regular hours; others have specific dates for open houses.
Prairie Fruits Farm, Champaign: Probably the most popular time to visit Prairie Fruits Farm is during the spring, when the kids — aka baby goats — are born, making for some truly photogenic moments. But PFF is open for more than just its popular brunch with the babies. It has open houses where you can savor a scoop of that delicious goat milk gelato and greet the goats, from spring into the fall. And then there are the famous farm dinners — save that for a special date night. Say hello to their dog Blue for us.
Curtis Orchard, Champaign: Curtis Orchard is well known for donuts and cider. But did you know it has honey that was voted the world’s best? And those honeycrisp apples! If you look past the window dressing (and we love the window dressing!), you’ll see that Curtis Orchard is a working farm at its finest. Find our review here. Open from July 20 to just before Christmas.
Visit an alpaca farm: Alpaca farms near Champaign-Urbana include Sundrop Alpacas in Bement, which is outside of Monticello and southwest of Champaign; it has a farm store where alpaca yarn and other homegrown items are for sale by appointment. Sundrop occasionally schedules days when the animals can be visited, so check its Facebook page (particularly in September/October). Timberview Alpacas is located in Clinton, and changed ownership in 2022. Stay tuned for what it will offer in the future — hopefully there will be more alpaca yoga. For real.
Visit a bison ranch: Harden Ranch in Fairmount is a family-owned and operated ranch raising grass-fed bison. Watch its social media for when it opens to the public, especially in the springtime (to see calves!) and in the fall for hayrides.
Check out U-pick farms: Taking kids to pick their own food is a really good lesson, especially for little ones, that food doesn’t just come from the grocery store. It’s also fun and tasty — there’s nothing like eating that fresh-picked fruit! We’ve got lists of places where you can pick strawberries, apples, blueberries, and more. Peaches are trickier near C-U but you can try Okaw Valley Orchard in Sullivan. Seasonal.
Try a sunflower maze: Our own sunflower superfan Mindy Borden profiled the gorgeous sunflower maze at L&A Family Farms in Paris (Illinois, not France). Typically open in mid-July to early August, the sunflower maze has a short window (read her review). The farm sells pasture-raised meats, eggs and fresh produce, and offers other seasonal attractions such as flower fields, a corn maze, and a pumpkin patch. A newer sunflower maze is located at Champaign’s Clearview Farms; in 2022 it announced a sunflower maze cut into the shape of Illinois and the interstate highways. Clearview expects the maze to be in bloom at the end of July and will announce related events on its social media.
Try a corn maze: Nothing says fall like walking through a corn maze. And people travel for miles to traverse the Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch corn maze, which covers 10 acres and can take 1-3 hours to get through. Fall is high season for corn mazes, no surprise there.
Pick your own flowers: Recently we picked our own lavender at Two Sisters Farm in LeRoy. It wasn’t a very long outing — there’s no frills on that farm, other than lavender items for sale — but it was a fun outdoor family bonding activity. Mariah’s Mums & More, near Clinton, offers u-pick zinnias on summer Saturdays and also by appointment on Tuesdays and Thursdays until late September. You will also want to check out its one-of-a-kind field of vertically-grown strawberries, as well as the fresh produce, fall mums, and on-farm events.
Amish Farm Tours: If you want to see something completely different, sign up your crew for an Illinois Amish farm tour or dinner. While the farm isn’t the center of the tour, it is a huge character in the production. Check out this article for more info about how to arrange such a visit.
Prairie Farm, Champaign: This isn’t your traditional working farm — it’s run by the Champaign Park District, and the animals there are “borrowed” for the summer. But it’s a great way to introduce kids to animals and agriculture. Free admission daily from 1-7 p.m. The petting area requires closed-toe shoes and is open daily from 3-5 p.m., also free. Best kept secret: The Park District camps where kids can work on the farm!
What Champaign-Urbana area farm adventures did we miss? Email email@example.com to let us know.