Visiting Ferme Ouellette Farm is like stepping 100 years back in time. Located in the small town of Middleville in the Lanark Highlands, the farm is an old-fashioned community gathering place, complete with an old-time country store, chickens on the doorstep, and workhorses in the back.
The farm itself dates back to the 1850’s, and was once the site of a cheese factory producing as much as 100,000 pounds of cheese per year. Caroline and Patrick Ouellette purchased the former dairy farm in 2002, turning it into a small-scale vegetable and poultry farm. A couple years later, they opened a farm gate store.
When you arrive at the farm, you’ll be greeted by one or more of the Ouellette’s friendly dogs. The dogs will do their best to get you to throw them a ball, but a sign asks you not to because they will compete over the ball and get too excited. So ignore the pleading eyes, and step into the store instead, where you will find a wonderful array of local food and products.
The small store is actually the farm’s old milk storage room, and still has the sloping floors and drainage hole. It is filled with products from the Ouellette’s farm, as well as those from neighbours and other local businesses.The Ouellettes’ own products include grain-fed beef, free-range chicken and other poultry, culinary and medicinal herbs, and home-made jam and dessert sauces made over an authentic woodstove. Caroline’s vinaigrettes made with Niagara grapeseed oil and vinegar are delicious.
The store also stocks a variety of goods from other producers, including honey, garlic, maple syrup, lamb meat, beeswax candles, handmade jewelry, and handknitted items. Tea is a specialty; along with a wide selection of loose-leaf tea (all organic and fair-trade), the shop also sells hand-picked wild Canadian herbal teas from the Algonquin Tea Company.
Caroline has made space in the store for a small selection of chocolate bars and pop. This is for the local children, whose candy supply disappeared when the Middleville general store closed. Caroline wants to make sure the kids have somewhere local to go to until the day when the store opens again.
Visitors are welcome to walk around the farm and see the livestock. If Caroline is free, she will accompany you and tell you about the farm. The best part of the visit is seeing all the ducks, chickens, turkeys, and guinea hens walking freely around the property. Watching them gather at feeding time is a real delight. But it’s not always cuteness and peace among the animals. While I was there, a turkey got caught in the fence and the other turkeys started attacking it, drawing blood on its head. Caroline had to rescue the animal, treat the wound, and then temporarily isolate the turkey in a cage for its own protection.
The Ouellettes also raise horses, including workhorses for cultivating the fields in the back of their property. If you’re fortunate enough to visit the farm on a plowing day, you can go back and watch Patrick Ouellette work the fields in the old-fashioned way. Otherwise, you can just admire the horses as they graze beside the barn.
Although it’s not a major tourist destination, Ferme Ouellette Farm is a soul-replenishing kind of place to go. The Ouellettes are purposely trying to live a slower, more sustainable way of life, one that creates stronger and healthier communities. It’s worth the drive to Middleville to be a small part of it.
Location: 4248 Wolf Grove Road, Middleville (Lanark Highlands)
Phone Number: (613) 259-2188
Website and Blog: http://www.ouellettefarm.com/
Reservations: Not required
Hours: April to December: Saturday and Sunday 10am to 5pm; January to March: By appointment only
Cost: No charge to visit the farm, but please support the business by buying items in the store.