The Eckert family has been growing apples for more than 100 years in rural Illinois, near the St. Louis metropolitan area. Proud of their farming heritage and diligent stewards of the land, the Eckerts have cultivated and preserved their orchard business for seven generations.
Eckert’s Orchards took root in 1837 after Johann Peter Eckert immigrated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from Dietzenbach, Hesse Darmstadt, Germany, and began farming. Johann’s son Michael followed his father’s instinctive love for the land and settled on a farm that we call Drum Hill, near Fayetteville, Illinois, which is 35 miles southeast of St. Louis. Fruit trees were planted on Michael’s farm in 1862, and then Michael’s son Henry followed suit and in 1890 planted fruit trees on his Turkey Hill Farm in Belleville, Illinois. Henry’s farm is now the hub of the Eckert’s family business, where the family’s largest orchard produces apples, peaches, strawberries, blackberries and other fresh fruit and vegetables and where its Country Restaurant and Country Store operate year-round.
Eckert’s retail operations started as a humble roadside farmstand, opened by Alvin O. Eckert in 1910 on the Turkey Hill Farm in Belleville, and have transformed into state-of-the-art facilities, including the Country Restaurant—a dining destination for down-home cooking in the St. Louis metropolitan area—and the Country Store and Garden Center, which carry seasonally fresh produce and plants, home-baked bakery treats, fresh meats and deli creations, gourmet cheeses, specialty foods and unique gift items.
The Eckert family also operates orchards and general stores in Millstadt and Grafton, Illinois. The quaint, rustic Grafton farm sits atop a Mississippi River bluff outside of Alton, Illinois, and the Millstadt Fun Farm is perfect for families seeking a day or evening of outdoor country entertainment as well as apple or pumpkin picking during the fall.
Today the sixth and seventh generations of the Eckert family oversee the daily business operations. Jim Eckert, son of Juanita and Vernon, is President of Eckert Orchards and is the company’s chief horticulturist. Lary Eckert, son of Curt and Ruth, recently resigned as President of Eckert’s, Inc., after presiding over the company for 30 years. Succeeding Lary Eckert as president is Lary’s son, Chris Eckert. Chris oversees retail operations, as well as the growing and wholesaling of home-grown produce. Lary’s daughter Jill Eckert-Tantillo is Vice-President of Marketing and Food Services. Angie Eckert, Chris’s wife, is Vice-President of Retail Operations for both the Country Store and the Garden Center.