Strawberry picking began at Susie’s Garden Patch recently, about two weeks behind normal due to the cool spring. In addition to “u-pick” strawberries, this Boone County farm offers a large variety of “u-pick” vegetables for customers. The family operation was started 29 years ago, and its major fall event is the Pumpkin Fill Up, which provides customers the opportunity to purchase pumpkins, gourds and squash at wholesale price, as well as enjoy a corn maze at no cost.
Strawberry picking began at Susie’s Garden Patch recently, about two weeks behind normal due to the cool spring. In addition to “u-pick” strawberries, this Boone County farm offers a large variety of “u-pick” vegetables for customers. The family operation was started 29 years ago, and its major fall event is the Pumpkin Fill Up, which provides customers the opportunity to purchase pumpkins, gourds and squash at wholesale price, as well as enjoy a corn maze at no cost.
GARDEN PRAIRIE, Ill. — Visitors to Susie’s Garden Patch have the opportunity to “u-pick” strawberries and “u-pick” vegetables while enjoying a day at the farm.

“We have been here for 29 years,” said Susie Silberhorn, who started the operation with her husband, Doug. “I grew up in Belvidere, and Doug was raised mostly in the Boone County area, so we looked for a place in the area that was about five acres.”

When their search for a few acres was unsuccessful, they decided to purchase an 82.5-acre farm.

“It was an abandoned farm with frontage on Highway 20, and the Kishwaukee River runs through the back 25 acres,” Silberhorn explained. “So we farm about 55 acres.”

At one time, the farm marketed products wholesale, but today it is a u-pick operation.

“We have three daughters, and four years ago, our daughter, Mary Brubach, came back to the farm to help her dad,” Silberhorn said. “Last year, on the day after Easter, Doug died of a heart attack, so Mary was thrown into her dad’s role very quickly.”

Natural Bounty

A variety of products are available at the farm for customers to pick.

“Strawberry picking officially opens on June 17. We are two weeks late this year due to the cold spring,” Silberhorn explained.

“Mary runs the business, and I run the store,” she said.

Other products currently available are asparagus, snap peas, lettuce, cucumbers, new potatoes and green onions.

“We added a new acre of asparagus this year that is more winter hardy, and now we have three acres of asparagus,” Silberhorn said.

In addition to the fields, the operation also includes a greenhouse and two high tunnels.

“We’ve been picking cucumbers for two weeks from the high tunnels, and we are also close to picking tomatoes from the high tunnels,” Silberhorn said.

Many more types of vegetables will be available to pick as the season progresses.

The farm’s store, a converted garage, features products grown on the farm, as well as fruit, including blueberries and peaches that Silberhorn purchases from Michigan growers each week.

“I go up to Michigan for the fruit and buy good quality fruit from people I’ve known for years,” she said.

Other items available at the store are jellies and jams from the Amish community, local unpasteurized honey and, new this year, eggs from a local producer.

“Every year, people have asked about eggs, so I finally found a lady four miles from me,” Silberhorn said.

Garlic grows on about one quarter of an acre.

“Every year, we expand our ‘u-dig’ garlic, and it’s never enough,” Silberhorn said. “We need about an acre because the people from Chicago love to come and dig garlic.”

Garlic is planted in late October to the first part of November. It is ready for harvest the following July, when about two-thirds of the plant is dry.

Although Susie’s Garden Patch is not organic, they use minimal amount of organic chemicals, as well as integrated pest management.

“Mary and I are also certified through the Good Agricultural Practices program,” Silberhorn said.

Pumpkin Fill Up

Pumpkin Fill Up is held at the farm each year during the Saturday, Sunday and Monday of Columbus Day weekend.

“This will be our 12th year for this event,” Silberhorn said. “We sold pumpkins wholesale to the Eagle Grocery Store, and when that store closed, we started this event.”

For those three days, customers can fill up their vehicles with pumpkins, gourds, squash, mini pumpkins and pie pumpkins at wholesale price.

“We sell any pumpkin for $4,” Silberhorn said. “About 85 percent of the pumpkins growing on the 10 acres are sold on those three days.”

A corn maze is available at no charge.

“The kids run around and have a blast,” Silberhorn said.

The also store will feature fresh cider, cider, doughnuts and fresh-baked pumpkin and apple pies during this time.

The garden patch is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays and is closed on Mondays.

To learn more about Susie’s Garden Patch and for information about what currently is picking, visit the website at www.susiesgardenpatch.com.