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The spring air was already summer warm when we pulled into Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek, Arizona. Beyond a small grove, we spotted a group of pastel and silver-colored vintage travel trailers that gave the area the feel of a movie set.
Instead of seeing movie stars, however, we would be treated like ones because this cute tiny trailer park situated on a working farm was our home for the weekend. We had arrived for a glamping weekend at The Cozy Peach at Schnepf Farms.
The Cozy Caravan
Approaching my trailer, a silver and lime green 1953 Westwood Caravan, I was pleasantly surprised with the outside details: A white picket fence surrounding a brick patio covered by a red and white striped canopy. Even more pleasant surprises were on the inside, such as a plush-looking, well-upholstered loveseat and chair. To my left was a tiny kitchen with boho-chic country décor and a squat 1950s General Electric refrigerator.
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Despite the warm air outside, the trailer was cool because of a rooftop air conditioning unit. Next was a tiny bathroom painted a lively yellow. And then there was the bed. Taking up the entire remaining space in the back of the trailer, it was covered with a soft, puffy quilt and four thick pillows. It looked so inviting I was tempted to take a nap. However, I resisted because my friends and I were invited to a garden happy hour.
Discover Family Fun at Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek
The five of us reconvened to the epicenter center of Schnepf Farms in an area designed to look like a small-town main street from the 1950s. It featured a row of buildings the farm’s owners had collected over the years including a candy store, an ice cream shop, and, appropriately, a produce stand.
We gathered in a lush green space complete with a decorative water fountain to munch on farm-grown watermelon and baby carrots along with a selection of fine crackers, cheese, and sparkling wine where we met Kylee Biggs, The Cozy Peach concierge, who told us a bit about the property. Schnepf Farms is a 300-acre, family-owned working farm and peach orchard that over the last 25 years has fostered the agri-tourism business in Queen Creek, a city of around 75,000 near Mesa.
From October to May, the farm is open to the public for “u-pick” fruits and vegetables and has an on-site bakery where guests can dine on homemade sweet treats made with the farm’s ingredients. After happy hour, Kylee said we would meet the farm’s owners and pick the vegetables for our dinner while getting a behind-the-scenes tour.
The Behind the Scenes Tour
We followed Kylee over to the produce stand where there was a stack of wicker baskets and clippers waiting for us. Then Carrie Schnepf, one of the farm’s owners, appeared from behind the building looking more like the glamorous TV news anchor she was known for instead of a farmer’s wife. With large aviator sunglasses, large gold hoop earrings, and her blonde hair neatly pony-tailed, she said hello and told us to follow her into the lush, green garden.
Carrie started us with cherry tomatoes, which were easy to pick and grew in abundance. Next were purple and banana peppers, which were small, but still ready to eat. Then we clipped a few rosemary twigs. After walking past the flowering lavender plants, we collected kale leaves. Last were the root vegetables where Carrie had us pull carrots, onions, and turnips.
With colorful vegetables filling our baskets, we followed Carrie to the farm store and bakery, which was housed in a rustic wooden cabin with café tables out front, and into a large kitchen. This is where the catering magic happens for the farm’s special events and weddings and where all the bakery’s delicious treats are made.
The Preparation of Dinner
After washing the dirt off our veggies, we chopped off the stems. Carrie then collected the kale leaves and root vegetables so she could turn them into side dishes for our dinner.
She then brought out a mug of wooden toothpicks, and a bowl each of basil leaves and mozzarella balls and instructed us to pierce a cherry tomato on the toothpick, add a basil leaf and then bookend it with a mozzarella ball. Once we had a tray of these tasty nuggets, Carrie drizzled olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the top and told us to dig in.
Carrie then kicked us out of the kitchen so she could prepare our dinner. We walked back through Main Street where Kylee met us in a golf cart and drove us around the property to some of the farm’s other activities we didn’t even realize were there. She explained that during the winter picking season (October to May), the farm is open with a variety of weekend festivities.
Other Activities at Schnepf Farms
Besides the fruits and veggies, Schnepf Farms is home to carnival rides, a mini-golf course, a beer garden with live music, and a petting zoo with rescue deer and large pot-bellied pigs. Our stay coincided with the end of the tourist season so it was quiet, but I could easily imagine kids squealing with delight on zip lines and families laughing and taking photos while feeding the deer. It’s the kind of family fun you don’t see much anymore.
Kylee dropped us off at the trailer camp and said dinner wouldn’t be ready for an hour, so we had some time to ourselves. We were going to retire to our ‘cozy’ trailers, but the setting sun was putting on quite a show, so Kylee turned on the outdoor patio lights and we all took a seat around the park’s fire pit to watch just as music from a wedding reception the farm was hosting reverberated in the distance.
Enjoy a Private Outdoor Dinner at The Cozy Peach
When Kylee returned, we followed her to the back of the campground and under a tree was the cutest country table with a lace tablecloth and vintage crystal water glasses. Near the table Carrie was preparing steaks on a large gas grill. As we took our seats Kylee brought out the appetizers we’d made earlier along with a large bowl of the root vegetables we’d picked sauteed with olive oil and rosemary. Another bowl held crunchy kale chips.
Carrie chatted with us while she cooked telling us how they used to hold a peach festival every May for over 25 years. However, the festival was a victim of its own success. With over 100,000 visitors over the course of three days, they often ran out of the peaches they were celebrating, and the farm staff was stretched thin.
Though they no longer had the festival, spring peach picking was still the farm’s most popular season. They also started hosting fall pumpkin weekends and from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, they go all out for the holidays with thousands of lights, s’more-making stations, and the petting zoo deer ‘magically’ turn into reindeer.
Getting to Know the Owners
As we finished up our dinner, Carrie’s husband Mark arrived to say hello. He was on his way to DC for a conference but wanted to thank us for staying the weekend. That was when Carrie told the story of how they met.
“I was set up on a date with the Mayor of Queen Creek,” she laughed (Mark was the town’s first mayor in the 1980s). “I thought there was no way I was going out to the middle of nowhere.” However, Mark’s charm and the farm’s quaintness captured her heart.
She said the carnival rides and petting zoo were her ideas because she wanted to give her big city friends a reason to visit her in the country. She never imagined those things would turn the farm into the tourist destination they had now. While the farm has shrunk in size (it was once over 600 acres), it is still one of the most popular tourist spots in the greater Mesa area.
I retired to my Westwood after dinner in a contented food coma. The bed proved to be as comfortable as it looked, and I quickly drifted off.
Learn Olive Oil 101 at The Queen Creek Olive Mill
The next day we ventured to a neighboring farm. The Queen Creek Olive Mill was on 100 acres and was founded by the Rea Family over 25 years ago. Kylee had told us The Olive Mill’s restaurant had the best breakfast around so of course we had to check it out. John Rea, son of the orchard’s founders Perry and Brenda, greeted us at our table.
“My parents took a vacation here and they saw that olive trees grew,” he said about the family business. “They thought, why don’t we grow olive trees in Arizona and make olive oil out of it?”
His parents, who were from Detroit, did a little research and a lot of planning before buying land from the Schnepfs and planting eight varieties of olive trees. They were so passionate about the business that John said his father had the equivalent of a sommelier certificate for olive oil and used it to create their flavorful blends, just like a winery.
The mill’s flagship products are their three extra virgin oil profiles – Delicate, Balanced, and Robust.
“You’ll see the Robust [has a] more peppery, more intense flavor,” John explained, “whereas the Delicate is more like a buttery, soft flavor, and the Balanced is right in between.” However, he also said that olive oil is different from wine in one important way. “It’s way better when it’s fresh.”
The Must-Experience Olive Oil Tour
After our delicious breakfast that included waffles and omelets, we joined the olive oil tour guided by Wolfgang Roeder, the company’s veteran tour guide. He showed us around a section of the orchard describing the different varieties of trees they grew and said the olives took six to eight months before they were ready to harvest. He also explained what extra virgin olive oil is.
“The parameters for extra virgin olive oil refer to the amount of time between when an olive comes off the tree to when we turn it into olive oil,” he explained in his German accent. “We have between 24 and 48 hours. No more than that.”
After viewing the trees outside, Wolfgang brought us inside the production facility where folding chairs were set up. He then showed a video depicting the annual harvest and the mill’s machines in action pressing the olives. Next was the fun part, tasting the oils.
While sipping straight olive oil may not sound pleasant, Wolfgang said that olive oil had many healthy properties, including healthy fats and antioxidants, and that he consumed a teaspoon of pure olive oil every morning. Staff then helped pass around small cups with a bit of oil in them. We started with the Delicate and worked our way to the Robust. It was fun tasting the differences that John pointed out earlier.
Wine-down at The Windmill Winery in nearby Florence
That afternoon we took a shuttle van about 40 minutes away to Windmill Winery in Florence. Tasting room manager Bethany greeted us and showed us into a beautiful sunroom with large windows and a gorgeous fireplace that was unnecessary on this hot day. She already had a combo flight of wines ready for us along with a charcuterie spread.
The first white was the pinot grigio, which Bethany said was the Windmill’s top seller and that pinot grigio grapes were perfect for Arizona’s climate because they were the most heat and drought-tolerant of all grape varieties. Next was the chardonnay, which she said the winery aged in stainless steel barrels instead of oak because it made the wine more fruit-forward versus the drier wine that wood produces.
The first red was the Barbera, which was full-bodied and had a strawberry finish while the last one was the Sangiovese, which was more mellow with hints of plum.
The Importance of Wine Labels
As we finished up, the winery’s owner, Harold Christ, stopped in to see how we were doing. He thanked us for coming and told us what he thinks makes his wines so popular – the labels.
“The number one reason people buy wines is because of the label,” he explained with a chuckle. “So every bottle of wine we try to incorporate what we do at the winery onto the labels.”
He picked up a bottle of Alicante from the table. “So these are three of the donkeys that live here and are part of the weddings we hold. People like to have their picture taken with them.” He then pointed to the artistic drawing of three donkeys on the front. “This is Ellie May, Jethro, and Hairy Garcia.” We laughed at their cute names.
After a day of fine food and wine, it was even easier to fall asleep in the Caravan’s comfy bed, but it was harder to get up the next morning to pack for the trip home.
As the airport shuttle drove us away, we reminisced about our foodie-centric farm stay at The Cozy Peach. It was the perfect combination of relaxation, delicious food, and girls’ glamping get-together. We even learned some things. What could be cozier?
If You Go to The Cozy Peach in Queen Creek:
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Author Bio: Carrie Dow is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, NC. Find her on Instagram @whereiscdnow.
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