Indiana Agritourism Destinations Provide Fall Family Fun
Across the state, families at agritourism farms work together so that Indiana families may play together.
At Steele Farms, 7-year-old Mayah Steele loves to serve drinks at the concession stand. Big brother Carter, age 12, works the market in the family’s old barn. And middle child Cooper helps direct up to 5,000 seasonal visitors to their farm’s fun activities, which include a U-pick pumpkin patch, wagon rides, petting zoo, play zone or this fall’s rock ’n’ roll-themed corn maze.
“We provide reasons for families to be together, unplug from devices and spend an afternoon connecting with each other,” says Chris Steele, the kids’ father and owner of Steele Farms with wife, Marah. “This business venture has been perfect for us because our whole family is involved and we are all together working.”
Like many farms across Indiana, the Steele family’s roots run deep in agriculture. The family has owned their Adams County farm, located about 25 miles south of Fort Wayne, since 1880, earning it a Hoosier Homestead Centennial Award. Today, descendants Carter, Cooper, and Mayah represent the sixth generation to live, work and play on the land. And their family invites generations of local families to stop by this fall to play on the farm, too.
Apples, Wine and More
Up to 300 cars per fall weekend cruise into McClure’s Orchard, a halfway point between Fort Wayne and Lafayette. During the fall, the farm offers oodles of apples, pumpkins, horse rides and a large playground area, as well as dining and drinks at its on-farm café and winery.
Throughout the year, visitors stop by for in-season berries, asparagus, peaches, cherries and more, in addition to wines and hard ciders crafted 95 percent from the farm’s produce. The farm hosts events, including weddings, under its pavilion, and its farm-to-bottle cider operation proves a rare find in Indiana.
“People have really started to appreciate what’s in their backyard more,” says Jason McClure, who operates the farm with his parents, sister and other family members. “The past two to three years we have seen a huge uptick in folks coming out to do the U-pick apples and pumpkins.”
Behind all the wholesome farm fun, this Miami County farm tells a unique story of revival. Twenty years ago, McClure’s dad spotted this overgrown orchard for sale during his business travels. The unkempt plot, which stood full of briars and unpruned trees, produced only two apples before the family bought and renovated the acreage. The McClures pruned, cleaned, fertilized and revitalized this orchard, which today offers around 130 different varieties of apples.
“We’ve had some people notice the amount of work it takes to maintain and run an orchard and have a U-pick,” McClure says. “I think so many of us have become detached from our food sources and the land. It’s important knowing what the land can be used for, having a greater appreciation of what is at your back door and spending time together outdoors, out of the TV room.”
Reconnecting to Farm Roots
Fall farm visits allow families to temporarily disconnect from the hectic pace of life. In the process, people connect with Indiana’s agrarian roots and sometimes their own.
Since the Steele family’s renovation of an old barn on their farm, many people reminisce about childhood days on their grandpa’s farm. The remodeled barn, originally built by Chris’ great-grandfather, Sam, holds the farm’s market, hosts its weekday school tours and serves as a gateway to the farm’s fun.
“We want people to experience the love of Christ, have family time together and experience something different than they get from other entertainment,” Chris says. “There’s something unique about coming out to the farm in the fall and petting animals and picking pumpkins.”