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Tanners Orchard stands out as a large agritourism destination and employer in Central Illinois

Tanners Orchard
Tanners Orchard
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For more information on Tanners Orchard, upcoming charity events, and hours of operation, visit TannersOrchard.com.

Tanners Orchard, located in Speer, Illinois, just north of Peoria on Route 40, is a longstanding family business. Established in 1947, four generations of the Tanner family have taken part in developing the orchard into the famous agritourism business it is known as today.

Currently, Tanners is owned by Jennifer Tanner Beaver and her brother Craig, as well as their parents Richard and Marilyn.

“My mom, they really started turning it around into more of an entertainment … We don't do any wholesale anymore, it's all retail at the farm. Then they started attending conferences and learning different things to do for the entertainment part of the farm and how to brand ourselves ... we’re a destination” said Beaver.

The farm is a seasonal operation open August through November. During that time frame, Beaver says over 100,000 people visit the Orchard annually.

“This year the weekend after Columbus Day it was estimated ... we had about 24,000 visitors, so that was our biggest ever."

Tanners doesn’t just attract people from central Illinois, although the Peoria and Pekin areas are their biggest draws, according to Beaver.

“We do a heat map, and we almost have somebody from every state,” said Beaver.

With so many people coming to visit the Orchard each season, staffing is a key piece in the orchard’s operations. About 180 people are employed at Tanner’s during the height of the season. Among those employees are teenagers, retirees, stay-at-home moms, and a large migrant population.

“We have an apartment complex, and we have a core group of Hispanic descent workers who come from Texas and a couple who come from Mexico every year, and they come and live there for free and work for us, and then they go home," Beaver said. "They work as a farmhand and so they get some extra benefits for being a migrant status."

Beaver takes pride in Tanners as a positive workplace for all.

“They all say we treat them very well, very fair. They get a lot of benefits working for us. We try to make it a fun place especially for kids to work. They should know how they should be treated, cause you go and your work at your first job and you’re treated badly, you just think that’s how it is and it is not,” Beaver said.

In addition to fostering a healthy work environment, Tanners Orchard tries to give back to the community. Portions of proceeds made in the marketplace from stuffed animal and dog bones go to The Ark in Marshall County, which is a no-kill animal shelter. This year, Beaver also allowed dogs on the farm at a $10 admission price, which went to the Ark as well.

October marked Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and that calls for purple pumpkins at Tanners.

“We paint pumpkins purple, and all the proceeds from those pumpkins goes to Freedom House,” said Beaver, which is a shelter for domestic and sexual violence in Princeton.

This month, Tanners is focused on their Cans for Care drive.

“For every food item you bring in or even personal items for the food pantry, then you get a coupon for a non food non sale item in the market,” said Beaver. These items benefit pantries located in Marshall and Stark counties.

When asked why agritourism businesses like Tanners are so important for the community, Beaver stressed the importance of putting money back into the community, and of course, family.

“The people we employ, we’re putting money back into the community. It's a safe space, you can take your family ... everyone always asks what’s so special ... to me it's special, it's my business, it's my family, it's what we’ve always done. It’s a family tradition. I know a lot of people that are on their third or fourth generation coming out. There’s a lot of stuff to do,” said Beaver.

For more information on Tanners Orchard, upcoming charity events, and hours of operation, visit tannersorchard.com.

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