Growing up in Kansas, the fall gets a bit chilly, with winter following after, and during those seasons, hot apple cider is a necessity. However, I just so happened to win hometown jackpot in that I grew up only about 15 minutes away from the absolute best cider mill, Louisburg Cider Mill. Family owned since 1977, it’s been a part of my entire life, and I was able to get a personal tour of the mill recently. I was shocked to see exactly how much had been added since I was last able to make a trip out there, making it a perfect field trip for Zach, and even Jeffrey.
Greeted by a simple sign proclaiming “Fresh Apple Cider” as I turned off of 68 Highway, I honestly felt flashbacks to childhood. I didn’t realize, though, that a lot had changed at this family-run business, and a lot of that was thanks to Clea, my tour guide for the day. Before I got to the Apple Cider Mill I knew and loved, I was directed to the other half of the Louisburg Cider Mill– the pumpkin patch and corn maze.
Just past the metal sign welcoming you to the patch is a family-friendly fall wonderland, made of pumpkins and bonfires and really fun homemade playsets, which were designed with the intention that families could borrow a lot of the playset ideas for home.
For $8 (or nothing, if you’re under the age of 3), you get access to all of this, and then some. Tires, a hay fort, the corn maze, pallet maze, wagon ride…. all of it.
I think Zach’s favorite part was the pallet maze, which was bright and exciting. Inside of the maze are some super secret letters. Find all of them, unscramble them on an entry form, and you could win a $25 gift card to the country store! Fun, AND educational. The giant corn maze (10 acres!) also has a word puzzle hidden inside.
Speaking of the corn maze… it’s a scarecrow this year. Isn’t he cute?
While there, we got greeted by some friendly little guys, but this one was a bit rude– he stuck his tongue out at us!
The funny thing about a pumpkin patch in Kansas is that, many times, you have to kind of search for a pumpkin at the beginning of the season. Even though there are 10 acres of patch, and there are gobs of pumpkins, large and small, to be picked, we haven’t had a frost yet, which means all of those green vines are intact. Once the frost hits, the vines die out, and the pumpkins gather at the base of the fallen vines, becoming a sea of orange.
I never realized how many things that the Cider Mill had to offer on the patch side. The wagon ride takes about 15 minutes and brings you all around the property, including past the witches’ house (which, I’ll let you in on a little secret, isn’t a witches house at all, but the home that the owners of the Cider Mill used to occupy). New this year is a huge jump pillow, which looks like an absolute blast (for an additional $2). The admission fee gives you access to everything so you can take your time exploring and playing, and with it being open until 10pm, there’s plenty of playtime to be had. You’re even able to bring a flashlight and go through the corn maze at night, until close– spooky! Many weekends, they light up the big bonfires and play live music on the stage, so it’s a perfect way to get the family out for a great night under the stars, next to a cozy fire. It even makes a really romantic date night. You can check out all of the live music dates on the Louisburg Cider Mill website.
Of course, pumpkins and mazes aren’t all the Cider Mill has to offer. They also, obviously, have cider. And, the pumpkins you see there are the pumpkins you can purchase if you don’t feel like taking a trip over to the patch to pick one yourself. Believe it or not, this barn was once just a neglected hay barn that was over 120 years old. In 1977, it was restored, and that fall, they bottled a jug of cider for the first time in that barn. It didn’t take much time after that for the cider to become hugely popular in the area, which led to a second barn being purchased from a neighbor, then assembled right near the old one to make the country store.
An operation that first started out of the barn in small batches has become a huge operation for the owners of the Cider Mill, with apples coming in by the truckload getting washed and turned into fresh cider. All of the apples come from orchards in Kansas and Missouri, a blend of Jonathan, Red Delicious, and Golden Delicious apples in 1,000lb bins.
The clean apples move up a conveyor belt into the barn for processing.
The conveyor belt leads them into the blademill, cutting the apples into pomace, which is a raw apple sauce.
From there, pomace is pushed through a cider press, squeezing the juice out of it for cider.
The cider is pushed through a rotating filter screen which finishes making sure all of the apple bits are out and it’s just cider. It’s then cooled in a cooling tank to 38 degrees. Once it gets cold enough, it goes to a bottling room to be filled into jugs.
Like these! Which can be found in the Country Store and also in grocery stores all across the metro, and even beyond that.
So what happens to the apple pomace and the rest of the apple-y goodness? Well, it’s turned into apple butter! And anything leftover from that goes to compost or cattle feed, meaning the entire apple is used, with little waste.
After exploring everything, I knew we couldn’t leave without stopping in the Country Store near the barn.
We each ate an apple cider doughnut, fresh made (they stopped making them for the morning literally minutes before we bought ours, so they were extra fresh!), and of course, a cup of fresh apple cider.
Needless to say, we’re all big fans of the cider doughnuts.
Nearly everything that isn’t made on-site at the Cider Mill is purchased locally, including the apples, and many of the preserves found in the Country Store. However, a good chunk of the products are made right there on the site, like the pumpkin and apple butters.
The cider isn’t the only claim to fame that Louisburg Cider Mill has, either. They’re also known for Lost Trail Root Beer, which I remember being the only root beer that our local BBQ joint, K&M, would serve. It was always so special to sip root beer out of a glass bottle; it’s something I still enjoy to this day. It’s microbrewed and made from an original formula that the great-great grandfather of one of the owners of the mill encountered while on the trail; an excerpt of his journal entry about the root beer is printed on the bottles still.
Honestly, you can’t beat a trip to the Louisburg if you’re looking for a fun thing to do with your family. It’s not that far from the Kansas City Metro, less than half an hour, and it’s worth every minute.
Looking for a reason to head out that way? The annual CiderFest is this weekend, September 30-October 1, and the following weekend, October 5-6. CiderFest is a free event and craft fair with plenty of exciting booths to explore. They also always have fresh, hot apple cider doughnuts and their famous cider for sale the entire weekend.
If you don’t live near the KC area and want to find out more about Louisburg Cider Mill or buy things like their Cider Doughnut mix so you can make your own Cider Doughnuts at home, you can order online at louisburgcidermill.com.
They do offer school tours and tours for homeschooling groups if you contact them in advance to schedule a trip out there. It’s an amazing educational opportunity for fall, and fits perfectly with an apple-themed unit study.
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