From just a few saplings planted in 1973, Jonamac Orchard has blossomed into more than 10,000 apple trees spanning 105 acres. Yet this family-owned orchard still has the feel of a local farm.
In fact, Jonamac Orchard is proof that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Three generations of the McArtors have run the orchard, and the family’s warm, simple Midwestern values can be felt in every root, stem, and glass of cider.
Besides growing fresh, organic apples, the McArtors seek to cultivate a sense of family fun, as they know that time spent together in the Northern Illinois outdoors should never be taken for granted. Maybe that’s why families from near and far have made visiting Jonamac Orchard an annual autumn tradition. After all, there’s something about holding your child up to reach that one, perfect apple that he or she will never forget. And with row after row of trees adorned with a seemingly endless variety of apples, such memories are ripe for the picking.
The orchard recently expanded with the opening of its Cider House. Here the apple cider is made from fruit that's grown just a stone’s throw away and pasteurized via ultraviolet light—rather than heat—to retain its amazingly fresh flavor.
Jonamac Orchard is also renowned for batches of apple wine and hard cider. Though Jonamac grows the apples on site, it relies on Wild Onion Brewery in Lake Barrington and Prairie State Winery in Geno to craft the concoctions—a pair of partnerships that only extends the orchard's influence to other communities in Illinois.
When planning a visit to Jonamac, consider how you like your apples. Early in the season (i.e. September), the apples tend to taste sweeter, while bushels between October and November tend to be a little more tart. Naturally, the fall makes for plenty of family-oriented activities including a petting zoo, barnyard play area, and hayrides to the 12-acre pumpkin patch.
But let’s not forget about Jonamac Orchard's legendary corn maze. Every year, the staff sets out to construct a labyrinth that's bigger and better than ever before; 2016's maze was a whopping 10 acres in size with nearly 3 miles of pathways. Even the most skilled navigators could spend more minutes than they anticipated sniffing out the exit. Over the years, Jonamac's corn mazes have adopted such themes as honoring America's brave first responders. It’s important to the McArtors to recognize and appreciate their fellow citizens in everything they do.
Perhaps that what makes the fruit from this orchard taste so sweet—a commitment to family, traditions, and memories, and a respect for Illinois that's lasted for generations.
TIP: Head on over to Jonamac's website to sign up for Jonamac Apple Alerts, which will notify you when your favorite variety is available to pick. How 'bout them… well, you get the idea.)
Discover more Illinois Artisans at Illinois Made.
For over 30 years, Ian Schneller has been a maestro of hand-crafted musical inst...