I guess you could say I’m a bit of a fall fanatic. I’ve never been much of a pumpkin spice person, but when it comes to apples I’m all in. So when I heard that I’d be visiting Edwards Apple Orchard West as part of my exploration of Rockford, Illinois, I was elated.
Located about 20 minutes northwest Rockford, Edwards Apple Orchard West has been a community tradition for more than 25 years. With an apple orchard, pumpkin patch, family play area, farm animals, and a historic barn boosting with tasty treats, this Illinois orchard has something for everyone to enjoy.
When they opened their orchard, the Edwards family wanted to create a place for families like theirs to spend time together. After purchasing the farm in 1987, the orchard officially opened for business in the fall of 1990. It’s easy to see why it has been a community staple ever since.
While the orchard’s goal is to bring people together, it’s also clear that this is truly a family business. The Edwards and their children are all involved in the orchard in some capacity. From helping with marketing to overseeing crop production, each one of them has grown into a new role. The family even lives on site and their two fluffy Bernese Mountain Dogs Dakota and Bella roam the property freely.
From the Tree to the Table: Apple Cider and Donuts
One of the coolest parts of my experience at Edwards Apple Orchard West was the behind-the-scenes look at how they turn their apples into cider. Apple cider is one of my favorite fall traditions, but I had never given much thought to how it’s made.
After the apples are picked they are brought into the barn to be washed. The apples are then sorted into two piles—those that will be bagged and sold, and those that will become cider. From there the cider apples are ground up until they resemble applesauce. Then the mixture is filtered to remove the seeds, core, and other hard pieces. The mixture is then layered and compressed to squeeze out all of the juice that will become the cider. After all of the moisture has been removed, the apple becomes a tough almost cardboard-like pulp that the family uses for composting. Finally, the cider is filtered again and pasteurized using a UV light to help the juice keep all of its natural flavors when it’s bottled.
While their cider is delicious, what often draws crowds to Edwards Apple Orchard West is their warm apple cider donuts coated in cinnamon sugar. Their kitchen staff works diligently throughout the day so that regardless of when you visit you’re likely to experience a melt-in-your-mouth donut.
If you visit Edwards Apple Orchard West
In my opinion, it’s not truly autumn until you’ve visited an apple orchard or picked a pumpkin from a patch. And there’s no better place to kick off your seasonal celebration near Rockford, Illinois, than Edwards Apple Orchard West.
The orchard is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm from late August through Thanksgiving weekend. Unlike other apple orchards, Edwards does not charge admission to visit or enjoy any of their activities.
After spending an afternoon in the orchard picking apples, head inside to do some shopping. The orchard sells everything from cider and apple butter to home goods and gifts for the whole family.
Edwards Apple Orchard West, 8218 Cemetery Road in Winnebago, Illinois
Have you ever visited an apple orchard? What’s your favorite fall activity?