‘It’s really nice to share where food comes from’

The Von Bergen family specializes in fruit and vegetable crops and on-farm experiences in a sunflower maze and pumpkin festival. Public outreach is an important part of what the McHenry County farm family does. (Photo courtesy of Tracie Von Bergen)

Consumers come to Von Bergen’s Country Market near Hebron for fresh produce, but they’ll probably leave with something else — appreciation for farms and homegrown flavor.

“People are floored at the difference in taste. They’ll say, ‘I don’t like tomatoes or musk melon.’ And I’ll say, ‘Try it. There’s a world of difference in taste.’ It’s really nice to share where food comes from,” said Tracie Von Bergen.

Von Bergen’s Country Market is a multigenerational family farm that involves Mel and Bobette Von Bergen; their son and daughter-in-law, Mike and Tracie, granddaughter Neysa, and grandsons Quentin, Xander and Valen.

The on-farm market sells a variety of vegetables, especially sweet corn, fruit and local products harvested from 100 acres dedicated to market production. Daily business hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Visit vonbergens.com or follow the farm on Facebook for the latest updates and visitor rules. Contact the family through Facebook messages or email vbveggiefarm@yahoo.com

In addition to the on-farm market, Von Bergens’ produce is available at two area farmers markets. Through late October, they participate in Woodstock’s twice weekly farmers market on Tuesdays and Saturdays. On Sundays through summer, they sell at the Market on the Dole, located at the Dole Mansion in Crystal Lake.

Farm visitors’ reactions to farm life and a different experience mean a lot to the farmers.

“The chickens are hilarious. They strut around and people love that. The looks on kids’ faces are amazing,” Tracie said. “It’s nice to see that.”

Expanding visitors’ country experience, the Von Bergens grow 25 varieties of sunflowers on more than 30 acres that includes a sunflower maze. Admission tickets are available online or at the farm. Until late August or early September depending on weather, an admission wrist band includes the maze, a barnyard animal area, children’s play area and a barrel train ride for young visitors. A wagon shuttles visitors to and from the maze. Sunflowers are available for sale by the stem.

A recent addition, a butterfly house, promotes pollinators and is another attraction to help educate the public, according to Tracie, who was a driving force behind the idea. “It’s absolutely beautiful in there. There are a ton of butterflies. It’s flourishing,” she added.

In the fall, the farm’s pumpkin festival will kick off on the last Saturday in September with a customer appreciation day. On that day, admission is free and roasted homegrown sweet corn is available. During the festival, admission tickets include a U-pick pumpkin area, corn maze, play area and other amenities.

“People are drawn to the farm,” Tracie said. “It’s great they’re able to enjoy homegrown produce. They come from the cities and may not have that opportunity otherwise.”

Editor’s note: Cultivating Our Communities is a collaboration by Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Specialty Growers Association to raise awareness of the farmers and businesses that grow, raise, process and sell diverse farm products across Illinois.