Editor’s note: This is a personal review from 2011, it has been updated to reflect current information. Your experience may vary. Originally published on Little Lake County.
Every summer, my family used to drive an hour out into the “country” to pick strawberries, then we would spend the next day making preserves and other goodies. It’s one of my sweetest childhood memories and something I wanted to share with my children, so last weekend, we headed to Stade’s Farm in McHenry to do just that. Many of you might know about their Shades of Autumn festival, but, for the past few years, they have been growing strawberries as well.
Strawberry Picking at Stade’s Farm
We started by grabbing our little baskets and heading to the fields. There were tons of ripe berries, and we picked only the reddest and sweetest ones. I will warn you that strawberry picking is back-breaking work, so it helps to have a low center of gravity (read: the shorter you are, the better) to pick from those small vines. This is where kids really come in handy, although mine were not quite as helpful as they could have been. Don’t forget to sample a few of these super sweet berries as you go.
After we finished picking just over 11 pounds of berries, we took them to the big red barn to pay for them. While we were in the red barm, we checked out their other homemade goodies then bought some strawberry frosted donuts and strawberry lemonade slushies for a snack… Yum!
Then we headed over to the play area. This area has a separate admission fee (children under 2 are free), we were able to play on a giant air pillow, race on pedal cars, slide down a gigantic slide, wander around a small petting zoo and more. It was an absolute blast, and, unlike their autumn festival, there were no crowds to contend with.
For those of you who are concerned about chemicals, while Stade’s minimizes the use of pesticides, they told me that they do use some pesticides to ward off insects and diseases. They do not use genetically modified seeds though, so they’re one for two in my mind. However, if the berries were organic, I would have picked enough to freeze for the entire year of smoothies and yogurt parfaits (two favorites in my house). I looked far and wide for local organic strawberry picking, and I wasn’t able to find anything within 2 hours of my house. I decided to let go of my ideals in the name of fun and a little family togetherness, and it was well worth it!