Hickory Ridge shines in seasonal spirit

By Nathan Lilley, General Manager
Posted 10/26/21

There’s no shortage of things to do this Halloween season and Hickory Ridge Orchard in rural Mexico is among seasonal headlining acts. The orchard is in full fall mode, with pumpkins, hay …

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Hickory Ridge shines in seasonal spirit

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There’s no shortage of things to do this Halloween season and Hickory Ridge Orchard in rural Mexico is among seasonal headlining acts. The orchard is in full fall mode, with pumpkins, hay rides, a corn maze, a nature trail and fish - ready to feed - and a petting zoo, that’s just some of the attractions offered.

Oh yeah, and there’s a corn cannon.

Hickory Ride’s corn cannon allows the marksman to fire an ear of corn at a variety of targets with prizes awarded for exceptional shots. 

And while a typical autumn day at the orchard is a busy one, it will be taken up a notch on Saturday, Oct. 30, as they host their annual Moonlight Event. For $5, attendees have their run of the place, with plenty of kid-friendly games, free candy and hayrides under the moonlight. Kids 2 and under are free.

“It’s really just a fun three-hour event,” said Hickory Ridge co-owner Brandt Schisler. 

Schisler and wife Kelsey opened Hickory Ridge in the fall of 2018, moving back to the Midwest from Colorado. They both come from farm families and when they had the opportunity to buy what was then Binder’s Apples and Alpacas, they were excited for the possibilities. 

Aptly named for the many hickory trees that line the property, the farm is also home to an ever-growing apple orchard, with a smattering of pear, peach and other fruit trees thrown in for good measure. On its grounds are pigs, turkeys, geese, chickens and other farm animals, and a walk around the pond nature trail proves an excellent opportunity to feed the many fish who call it home.

Admission through the regular season is free, with some attractions, like the Hickory Ridge Express and corn maze requiring tickets. 

Schisler and company are busy getting everything in line for the Moonlight Event, while welcoming tour groups and weekend guests.

“It’s a kid-friendly Halloween event,” Schisler said. 

This is its fourth year.

“Our first year was extremely successful,” Schisler said.

The last couple of years have been a bit hampered by the weather, but eyeing the forecast, Mexico is calling for a high of 64 and a low of 45 with clear skies. While that can change, if that holds that could make for a perfect night.

A family-friendly Halloween movie will be shown, folks will be able to traverse the corn maze by flashlight and there’ll be food, cider - freshly made at Hickory Ridge - a corn wagon and face painting.

Beyond the Moonlight Event, Hickory Ridge is working towards becoming organic-certified. Anyone who’s heard the song, “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell (and covered by Counting Crows) is familiar with the line “..I don’t care about the spots on my apples, just give me the birds and the bees…” That’s the way Hickory Ridge approaches their orchard.

“Our apples truly look like a natural apple,” Schisler said, “like you’d find your backyard.”

Hickory Ridge spans 40 acres, with 16 of them open and the rest in timber. With well over 1,000 apple trees and a comprehensive plan in place to increase that annually, the goal is to offer you-pick apples in the future. While apple picking is something that’s traditionally a fall activity, the orchard produces some apples as early as late July -the Pristine variety - and some as late as November - Arkansas Black. 

“The earlier the apple comes in, the shorter the shelf life it has,” Schisler explains. 

Apple farming can be a costly endeavor and the family events and attractions help fund the effort as orchards take time to establish.

The orchard has established partnerships with other area businesses, including many ag-related, and offers their wares in the Hickory Ridge gift shop. And they offer their own products, too. During a recent visit, Schisler points to an open space on the gift shop shelves where their apple butter was. One of the business’s most popular products, it sells almost as quickly as it’s produced. Also popular is the all-natural Hickory Ridge apple cider and apple vinegar.

Partnering with Tommy and Kaitlyn Swon, the Schislers have enjoyed contributing a dose of farm tourism to the region. With a motto of “Family Fun on the Farm”, they strive to bring a top-notch experience to guests - and they intend to improve each year.

Hickory Ridge is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Sept. 3 through October. And when October moves on and autumn is replaced by winter, stay tuned to all that’s happening at Hickory Ridge on Facebook. Winter months are highlighted by their wine and cheese tastings, held in January, February and March. 

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