Earlier this month I attended my first Girl Geek Dinners Ottawa event. The evening brought 20 or so women (and a couple guys) together for a wonderful foodie tour of the Ottawa ByWard Market, led by Paola St-Georges from C’est Bon Cooking. As someone who spends most of their time in the rural areas surrounding Ottawa, it was great to explore downtown for a change. To read about the tour and all the great stores we visited, please visit the Local Tourist Ottawa blog, where I wrote an article located here.
Look out Prince Edward County and Niagara Region. Ottawa has quietly turned itself into a wine destination, with 10 wineries located within an hour of the city core. The newest is Jabulani Vineyard and Winery in Richmond (the southern part of Ottawa).
Jabulani opened only a month ago, but you’d never know from the quality of its wine and the immensely enjoyable tourist experience that owners Tom and Janet Moul provide.
I visited Jabulani around noon on a Friday – one of their quieter periods before the weekend rush. After turning down a long gravel driveway to their farm, I drove past the vineyards and parked in the grass-covered parking lot. As I got out of the car, Tom was already walking out to greet me. This is what I love about agritourism in Ottawa – no pretention, just welcoming, down-to-earth farm experiences.
Tom led me to his and Janet’s log home, where they’ve opened a tasting room in the lower level, with a walkout patio overlooking the vineyard. I was invited to take a seat at one of the wine barrel tables, where I would begin my wine tasting. Out came perfectly chilled wine, along with generous plates of cheese, crackers, and grapes. Continue reading “Jabulani Vineyard and Winery in Richmond”
Today’s West Carleton EMC newspaper had a nice full-page ad showing the various places around Ottawa where you can get fresh, local strawberries. The ad’s focus is berry farms to the south and west of Ottawa. If you click on the picture to the left, you can read the ads from each berry farm and then head out to get your own delicious strawberries!
As you can see from my latest posts, I’m still working away at my Great Canadian Cheese Festival articles. I better hurry up, because the summer agritourism season is now in full swing and there’s so much to write about. And what better way to start than to write about STRAWBERRIES!!!!
Yes – finally – the pick-your-own strawberry season has begun, and to celebrate, I headed out yesterday to Cedar Hill Berry Farm in Pakenham. It was a race against the weather, as the skies were turning dark and the rain was on its way. But several days of hot, sunny weather had ripened the strawberries to perfection, and I was able to pick a 4 Litre basket in under 15 minutes.
I’m a big fan of Cedar Hill Berry Farm, having visited them last December for their Christmas tree season (which you can read about here). The setting is so idyllic, with the farm located at the end of a dirt road, beside a small creek with a covered bridge.
Your first stop for berry picking will be the barn beside the parking area. Continue reading “Strawberry Heaven: Cedar Hill Berry Farm”
A highlight of our All Day Cheese Tour was stopping at Vicki’s Veggies for a picnic lunch. We arrived quite hungry from a busy morning of touring, and were happy to take a seat at the picnic tables that had been set up on Vicki Emlaw’s and Tim Noxon’s property. Here we savoured a delicious box lunch from Prince Edward County’s East & Main Bistro, while free-range chickens wandered around us looking for handouts.
During our lunch, Vicki Emlaw provided a history of the farm business that she and her husband run. After spending a couple years at university, Vicki spent twelve years travelling the world. She would return in the summers to work evenings in local restaurants, and would spend her days working in her mother’s garden. At a party one night, she met a local carpenter whose recent hand injury was preventing him from being able to can his home-grown tomatoes. She volunteered to help him, and the rest is history.
Now the couple lives on an 8-acre property where they grow non-certified organic mixed vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers, mushrooms, and eggs. Continue reading “All Day Cheese Tour: Vicki’s Veggies”
When we finished our tour at Maypul Layne Farms, we headed off to Black River Cheese Company. This small-scale cheese factory is located on the Black River – a very picturesque spot in Prince Edward County. The company is a small co-operative owned by local farmers, and specializes in cheddar, mozzarella, brick, and fresh curd.
Our tour included an overview of the cheese making process, followed by a peek into the warehouse containing over $1 million in cheese. There were some interesting discussions about the milk quota system, which sets the amount of milk that cheese makers are entitled to; if they need more, they must lease the extra quota from another producer (which I assume is quite expensive). We were told that the only exception is when a cheese maker develops a cheese that no one else is producing, in which case, they can apply for up to 10 million litres extra quota per year. I’m not sure how they define a unique cheese, but apparently it doesn’t count if you just add different flavours (like hot peppers, for example). Continue reading “All Day Cheese Tour: Black River Cheese and Fifth Town Artisan Cheese”
As readers of this blog know, my main writing focus is agritourism. I profile farms and agribusinesses that open their doors to their public, providing a glimpse into the passion and hard work that goes into producing the agricultural products that we often take for granted.
One type of farm that rarely opens its doors is a dairy farm, whether the farmers are raising cows, sheep, or goats. The main reason is that biosecurity is a big issue in the dairy industry; everything must be kept very clean to ensure a safe milk supply. In fact, you are a bigger risk to the animals than the animals are to you, so there’s too much risk for most dairy farms to provide regular tours of their operations.
However, you will occasionally run across opportunities to tour a dairy farm – usually one-time events that are easier for the farmers to manage. So when I saw that the Cheese Festival was offering a bus tour that included two dairy farms, I immediately signed up. One of the tours was for a cow dairy farm, and the other was for a dairy goat farm.
Sadly, the dairy goat farm tour was cancelled at the last minute, due to a tragic event on the farm. Continue reading “All Day Cheese Tour: Maypul Layn Dairy Farm”
I just returned from a wonderful 3-day weekend in Prince Edward County, where I attended the 1st annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival. I had such a great time touring cheese factories, sampling outstanding cheese, and most of all, meeting so many inspiring and passionate people who were part of the event. As one woman I met said, “This is like a wedding, but without the bride and groom!”
Over the next few blog entries, I will provide details about the tours, seminars, and tasting events that I attended. This should provide lots of ideas for agritourism experiences in Prince Edward County and beyond, and will also give you some ideas for great cheeses to seek out from your local cheese shop.
Here are the topics I will cover in the next blog entries:
- An all-day bus tour that took us to a dairy farm, Black River Cheese, Vicki’s Veggies, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, and County Cider
- A full day of cheese seminars covering Canadian cheddar, cheese from Quebec, and artisan cheese in Ontario
- The Cooks and Curds gala featuring tasting dishes prepared by eight Canadian chefs with eight Canadian cheeses and paired with Ontario wine and beers
- The Artisan Cheese and Fine Food Fair where cheesemakers and producers of artisan foods offered their products for sampling and purchase
It’ll take me a few days to cover all these topics (unless I write faster than I usually do), so keep checking back for new updates, including pictures from the various events.
Update: Sadly, Carleton Growers is now out of business.
I stopped by Carleton Growers in Carp today to pick up some cut lilies and roses from their greenhouses. While I was there, they told me they’re looking for some additional part-time help. They have several open positions: florist, design florist, harvesting help, and drivers to delivery flowers to farmers’ markets.
This could be a great opportunity for anyone who loves flowers and is passionate about environmental issues. As I wrote about previously on the Local Tourist Ottawa website, Carleton Growers was recently purchased by the Carp Ridge EcoWellness Centre, a charitable organization with an environmental focus. They plan to turn the adjacent fields into an organic farm and add more greenhouse space so they can grow year-round organic vegetables in addition to flowers. They’ve hired 11 local youth for the summer to help with their plans, and now are looking for more specialized help with the flower business.
If you’re interested, you can send an email to carpacresdm <at> hotmail <dot>ca. Or visit the Carleton Growers website for additional contact information. (Note: The website has not been updated since the business changed hands earlier this year, so you won’t find details about their expansion plans there yet.)