In 1910, fourth-generation German immigrant Alvin O. Eckert set up a small produce stand on a roadside in Belleville, Illinois. More than 100 years later, that roadside stand has flourished into the expansive Belleville plot of Eckert's Farm: a pastoral acreage where orchards surround a country-style restaurant, bakery, and handmade-custard shop. The Eckert family's sixth and seventh generations ensure this farm remains a true family affair. Sixth-generation member Jim Eckert is the chief horticulturist, and his cousin-once-removed, Chris, oversees retail operations and the sale of the farm's homegrown produce and spare scarecrow parts. Chris's sister Jill helms the food program, and his wife Angie oversees the Country Store and colorful Garden Center.
Throughout the year, visitors arrive on the Belleville farm's grounds for a range of seasonal activities, including peach-, apple-, and pumpkin-picking. During the summer, a concert series features live outdoor music on Friday and Saturday nights, and in the fall, staff lead bonfires and evening hayrides through the orchards. Inside the farm building, instructors teach cooking classes for adults and children, as well as a wine-pairing class.
Family-friendly activities also abound at the Eckert family's other two farms. The Grafton farm, where public apple-picking began in 1964, offers daily animal feeding and miniature golf. The seasonal Millstadt farm is home to a workshop, haunted hayrides, and an array of warm-weather children's attractions—including a 70-foot underground slide.
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The sausage recipe didn’t start with Helmut and Henry Wanninger, but they were the ones to bring it across the Atlantic in 1965. Sons of a sausage meister, Helmut and Henry left their home in Bavaria and set up shop in St. Louis, where they began spicing, grinding, and casing sausages to the delight of the city’s southern neighborhoods, home to many German immigrants. The popularity of their encased meats continues today, though cousins Bob and Gerhard are now the master meatsmiths. These Wanninger descendants prepare more than 30 different Bavarian-style sausages, including multiple types of bratwurst, specialty sausages such as bockwurst and smoked liverwurst, and Landjager beef sticks. These specialties grace venues all over St. Louis, from Grant’s Farm to Gus’ Pretzels to the Egypt-themed alternate reality that exists on the other side of the Arch.
Bob and Gerhard also apply their expertise to other styles of encased meats, such as andouille and chorizo, and they happily process deer for hunters. In addition to manning the meat counter, the duo stocks the shelves with German goods such as Lowensenf mustards and breads from local bakeries.