Throughout the central part of Michigan are rich farmlands and historic farms, which welcome travelers seeking unique family experiences. Jump off the major highways in search of the pastoral byways and rediscover the deep agricultural roots found along this extended 280-mile route.
Start your adventure at Uncle John's Cider Mill (8614 N. US-127, St. Johns), a 240-acre farm just 30 miles north of Lansing. The Beck family has been farming here for five generations – more than 120 years – and during that time they’ve mastered the agricultural experience. You’ll find nearly 20 varieties of apples during the harvest season, as well as cider mill, bakery, winery, gift shop, nature trails, kids corral, pumpkin patch, corn and straw bale mazes, train and wagon rides, a fruit fling and seasonal entertainment. Uncle John’s is perfect for family gatherings and school groups alike. The Farm Market and the Fruit House Winery are open May through December. (888-56-CIDER) www.ujcidermill.com
Once you’ve had your fill at Uncle John’s, head south on US-127 to M-21. Head east for 6 miles to St. Clair Road, then south 2 miles to Parks Road, and then ¼ mile west to Wyrick's Orchard (East Parks Road, St. Johns). This quiet country orchard, family owned for more than 50 years, is surrounded by beautiful farmland and boasts an apple house right in the center. The annual harvest includes Cortlands, McIntosh, Red & Yellow Delicious, Northern Spy and Empire. Open September and October. (989-834-2369)
Make your way south to Haslett, in search of Clearview Orchards (1051 Barry Road, Haslett). Head south on South Chandler Road toward East Taft Road, turn right at East Price Road, then turn left to merge onto US-127 S toward Lansing. Take Exit 82B-A for I-69 toward Ft. Wayne/Flint, keeping left at the fork to continue toward I-69 E. Take Exit 82A for I-69 E toward Flint. Then take Exit 98 for Woodbury Road toward Laingsburg, turning right on Woodbury Road and then continuing on Shoeman Road. Then, turn left at Barry Road to the orchard. Here, you’ll find u-pick apples, as well as pumpkins, squash and gourds. Hayrides are offered during autumn weekends. Open September and October. (517-655-1454)
Your tour takes you east and slightly north through the countryside to Mueller's Orchard (6036 Lobdell Road, Linden). Head east for 1.4 miles on Barry Road toward Zimmer Road, turn left at Lounsbury Road, and then right at West Lovejoy Road/ Milton Road. Turn left at Shaftsburg Road and travel 2 miles before turning right at West Beard Road. Enjoy the sites along this nearly 18 mile stretch before turning left at Byron Road, which turns slighty to the right, becoming Silver Lake Road for about 5 miles. Turn right at Seymour Road for less than 1 mile, continuing on Argentine Road briefly before turning left at Bennett Lake Road. Follow this for just over 3 miles before turning left at Linden Road for ½ mile and finally left at Lobdell Road to Mueller’s. The original orchard just 2 miles south of historic Linden was planted in the 1880s. The Mueller family has owned and managed the farm since 1941. Buy fresh fruit, including Northern Spies and snow apples, as well as cider, fresh and dried cherries and cherry juice concentrate, pears, plums and grapes. Mueller’s also offers a farm market and gift shop. If your tour is during the third weekend in September, be sure to stop in for “The Apple of Your Eye” car show, benefiting Cystic Fibrosis. Open end of August to Thanksgiving in November. (810-735-7676)
It's back north now, for about 30 miles, to Almar Orchards, (1431 Duffield Road, Flushing). Head southeast on Lobdell Road back toward Linden Road, turn right and then left back on Bennett Lake Road to White Lake Road for 1.6 miles to US-23 N. Take the highway for just over 17 miles to Exit 118 (M-21/Corunna Road) toward Owosso. Turn right on Corunna Road (M-21) and travel for 3.3 miles before turning right at South Elms Road. After 2 miles, turn left at Beecher Road. Take Beecher Road for 5 miles, then turn left at Duffield Road to Almar Orchards. This family oriented fourth-generation orchard sprawls across 250 acres of organic countryside. You’ll find more than 15 varieties of apples, as well as fresh sweet fermented hard cider, organic apple cider and apple wine, all made on the farm and available year-round. Almar Orchards also offers a large petting zoo and barnyard, with llamas, potbelly pigs and even reindeer. This is an ideal group tour destination, with acres of orchards, meadows and woodlands waiting to be explored. A spacious playground and picnic area, wagon rides and guided tours are also available, providing a terrific family farm experience. Open all year. (810-659-6568) www.almarorchards.com
It's less than a half mile to Koan's Orchard (12183 Beecher Road, Flushing). Head north on Duffield Road back to Beecher Road. Turn left to Koan’s Orchard, which offers 25 varieties of apples, as well as donuts, muffins, breads, sweet cider, jams, jellies and fruit butters, syrups, salsas and more. The quaint, old-time country store also specializes in unique gifts. Open year-round. (810-659-8720)
Settle in for a 40-mile trek north to Leaman's Green Applebarn (7475 North River Road, Freeland). Head west for a half mile on Beecher Road to M-13/Sheridan Avenue and turn right. Follow M-13 for 26 miles before turning left on Gallagher Street (which turns into West Center Street, Fraser Street and Marquette Street) for just a couple miles before turning right at South Elm Street. A quick left turn at Gratiot Avenue (M-46) for 3.5 miles gets you to North River Road. Turn right and travel about 9 miles to Leaman’s. This seventh generation farm, located on a centennial orchard, was first established in 1889. During the summer, several festivals and events are held here – including The Apple Country Art & Craft Show, held each September. The fall season starts the weekend after Labor Day and runs through the first weekend in November. The orchard offers various apple varieties including Red and Yellow Delicious, Paula Reds, McIntosh, Ida Reds and other varieties, as well as blackberries, gourds, sweet corn and watermelon. You’ll also find a cider mill, bakery, picnic area, play area, garden walk and corn maze on site. Leaman’s is a great destination for school groups as well. Open May through December. (989-695-2465) www.greenapplebarn.com
Settle in for a trip westward toward Montcalm County, where you’ll find two great family farms waiting to be explored - the first being Anderson & Girls Orchards (2985 North Sheridan Road, Stanton). Head northwest on North River Road toward Wilkinson Road and turn left on West Freeland Road for 12 miles. Turn left on South Meridian Road for 3.1 miles, then turn right at West Redstone Road for 5 miles. Turn left at South 11 Mile Road briefly, continuing on McClelland Road for 4 miles. Then, turn right on M-46 (South Saginaw Street) and continue for 31 miles before turning left on M-66 (North Sheridan Road) for 5 miles. Down-home family fun on the farm, featuring a U-pick orchard, cider mill, bakery, petting zoo, wagon rides, greenhouse, ice cream, corn maze, farm animals and gift shop. The Cider Mill is open Labor Day weekend through Dec. 1., using only hand-picked apples fresh from the tree. No additives or preservatives are used in this “famous” 100 percent pure apple cider, featuring a unique blend of apples in a “top secret” recipe. (989-831-4228) www.andersonandgirls.com
Next, it's on to Greenville at Klackle Orchards & Family Fun Farm (11466 West Carson City Road, Greenville). Follow M-66 (North Sheridan Road) south for 3 miles and turn right on West Main Street, which turns into West Stanton Road, for a couple miles. Turn left at Derby Road SW for 3 miles, then turn right at West Sidney Road. Take West Sidney Road for 6 miles, then turn left at M-91. Take M-91 for 3 miles. Turn right on Wise Road and take for 1.5 miles. Turn left at Youngman Road for 2 miles, and then right on M-57 (West Carson City Road). A visit to Klackle Orchards lets you get an up-close look at modern commercial orchard operations. This third-generation apple farm offers dozens of crisp, juicy and tasty varieties. Other activities include pumpkin patch rides, kiddie rides, a petting zoo, straw pile fun, a labyrinth maze, face painting, a picnic area, and a playland. Open Sept. 7 through Oct. 31. (616-754-8632) www.klackleorchards.com
The final stop is Buerge's Apple Hill Farm (4135 South Alger Road, Ithaca). Head east on M-57 (West Carson City Road) for 32.8 miles, then turn left on South Alger Road for 4 miles to this small, family run retail orchard, which offers 15 varieties, as well as mums, pumpkins and winter squash. Open September and October. (989-875-4977)
Round out your "circle tour" by returning to Uncle John's Cider Mill in St. Johns. Head south on South Alger Road toward West Hayes Road for 4 miles. Then, turn left at West Cleveland Avenue (M-57) for 4.7 miles. Finally, turn right to merge onto South Bagley Road/US-127 South toward Lansing for 4.4 miles.
- Travel Michigan