Harvesting Good Old Fashioned Fun

By WEEK Producer

October 23, 2011 Updated Oct 24, 2011 at 8:51 AM CDT

Business continues to bloom steadily at Tanner's Orchard as it has for the past 20 years. But Co-Owner Jenny Beaver remembers a time when she was a child and the outlook was bleak.

Jenny says, "We didn't have a good apple crop. It was a little hard, and my mom decided we need to move into another direction, not just the agricultural part of it."

So the family started with apple-picking, then wreath-making, then pumpkin-picking and that's how Tanners got into the agritainment industry. It's a way to sustain the family business for farmers with few acres.

It includes picking your own crops, corn mazes, games for kids and anything else the agritainers can think to share at their conventions and organizations. Agritainers aren't big on intellectual property.

Beaver says, "We tour other places and see and get new ideas. We share our ideas and they share with us."

Serena Ryan and her sister Tonya Edgil say it's like a mini-amusement park in the middle of the country, and it's bringing people in from all over the country. Ryan came in from Bettendorf, Iowa while Edgil came all the way up from Mississippi to visit their brother.

Serena says, "You can come out here and have a great time and the price is minimal, especially compared to the Quad Cities. The pumpkin patches out there are quite expensive compared to out here."

Edgil says about her Tanner's experience, "It's more like a family thing, where at Six Flags or Great America the kids are on the rides and you can't really be around them as much. Here you can kind of follow them around and be involved."

Thanks to this family and visitors like them, Tanner's Orchard sees anywhere from 3,000 to 7,000 guests on a sunny weekend. Beaver says the agritainment industry has kept the farm away from hardships since the bad apple crop. That is, except for one hardship she made sure to mentioned.

Jenny says, "The hardest thing about working on a family farm probably is working with your family."

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