Hay There

Appears in the August 2022 issue.

Take a trip into the past at these working farms and living-history museums

Volkening Heritage Farm at Spring Valley

201 S. Plum Grove Rd., Schaumburg

What it is: A restored 1880s German-American farm and living museum operated by the Schaumburg Park District

Admission: Free

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays through October 31 (farmhouse and visitors’ center); 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily (grounds and trails)

Animals to see: Pigs, chicken, and cattle. “The livestock are the biggest attraction,” says Dave Brooks, manager of conservation services. “We currently have historic breeds.”

Things to do: Stroll around the 19th-century farm buildings and take a walk through the farmhouse, where costumed interpreters work in the heirloom vegetable garden and cook on a wood stove. Pop into the visitor’s center and browse historic games and snacks to take home. “The local honey and fresh eggs from the farm are the top sellers,” Brooks says. 

Upcoming events: The Autumn Harvest Festival, October 1—2, is the farm’s largest annual event ($5 per person) and features music, games, and farm-life demos. Wear your Halloween costumes for Trick or Treats in the Valley, October 29—30, and wander the trails to gather goodies from costumed characters. 

Blackberry Farm

100 S. Barnes Rd., Aurora

What it is: Part farm, part museum, part amusement park, all operated by the Fox Valley Park District

Admission: $7 for residents and $10 for nonresidents; $1 discount for seniors

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays through August 21; 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Fridays, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays September 2 to 25; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays in October

Animals to see: Goats, alpacas, llamas, sheep, cow, donkey, and a pot-bellied pig 

Things to do: Feed animals in the Discovery Barn and stroll through museum sites around the park to learn about crafts and trades of the late 1800s and early 1900s, including pottery, blacksmithing, weaving, and Dutch oven cooking. Admission includes all the rides you can handle on the hay wagon, carousel, pedal tractors, ponies, paddle boats, and miniature train—a replica of a C.P. Huntington steam locomotive. “Ours is powered by propane, and it’s about an eight- to 10-minute train ride around Lake Gregory,” says Becky Harling, facility manager. There’s also an awesome playground with kooky cottages, bridges, and ziplines.

Upcoming events: Visit during Pumpkin Weekends in October to play in the corn crib or purchase a pumpkin to decorate. 

Kline Creek Farm

1N600 County Farm Rd., West Chicago                               

What it is: An 1890s living-history farm located in Timber Ridge
Forest Preserve

Admission: $5 suggested donation per person over age 3

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays

Animals to see: Horses, cows, sheep, and chickens 

Things to do: Wander through restored farmstead buildings and meet costumed interpreters using historic farming tools and techniques. “Activities and events at the farm recreate the seasonal rhythms that have governed farm life for centuries,” says Keith McClow, heritage experience manager at the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, which runs the farm. Roll up your sleeves and help with laundry on Mondays and barnyard animal care on Thursdays through August 29. Take the farmhouse tour (offered on the hour 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) to learn more about household chores of the 1890s.

Upcoming events: Settle in for story time on Monday mornings (10 a.m. to noon through August 29) or visit for the corn harvest during October weekends and help shuck corn that will feed the farm’s animals all year long.                               

Primrose Farm

5N726 Crane Road, St. Charles

What it is: A living-history farm operated by the St. Charles Park District focused on the 1930s

Admission: Free

Hours: Visitors are welcome dawn to dusk daily to walk the grounds and visit the animals.

Animals to see: Cows, goats, horses, chicken, and one very popular barn cat. “We have people that come regularly just to see the cat,” says Alison Jones, manager of farm programs and interpretive services. “He’s probably the top attraction.” 

Things to do: Book an Animal Adventure class in advance ($2 to $8 per person) to learn how to milk the cows, groom the horses, or feed the goats. “For preschoolers, it’s a good way to be introduced to the animals,” Jones says. “The classes are short, and it’s a private class with just you or your family or friends.” On Fridays watch historic demos such as churning butter or washing laundry. 

Upcoming events: The farm usually hosts a barn dance in September and autumn hayrides in October. 

Photos courtesy of Schaumburg Park District (Volkening Heritage Farm at Spring Valley), Fox Valley Park District (Blackberry Farm),
Forest Preserve District of DuPage County (Kline Creek Farm), and St. Charles Park District (Primrose Farm)