With 1,300 registered farms and 25,000 acres of farmland and related green space, Ottawa has the distinction of being Canada's most agricultural city. In fact, there are more farms in Ottawa than Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver combined! The city is, astonishingly, 90% rural, a statistic that never fails to amaze tourists who devote the majority of their time to the urban core, the museums, and the Parliament buildings.
But intrepid visitors will discover that a trip to Ottawa's countryside is well worth the effort. A visit to the more remote farmers' markets, the community fairs, and -- best of all -- the farms themselves make for unforgettable travel experiences. The scenery is beautiful, the tastes are rich, and you're completely removed from the usual tourist beat. And best of all, many locations are just 20 minutes or so from the city center!
Here you'll find some of Ottawa's most remarkable farms and agricultural destinations, most of which are completely unknown even to locals. And each is well worth the short road trip. Read on to discover some Ottawa's most memorable foodie farm destinations!
A favourite of local chefs, who love working with this farm to grow specialty products for their restaurants, Rideau Pines Farm is famous for their all-natural approach. They offer pick-your-own sweet corn, raspberries, currants, and gooseberries. Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, beans, peas, peppers, hot peppers, heirloom tomatoes, melons, and 20 plus varieties of squash round out their offerings.
Phoebe the goat and Florence the pig entertain guests and make sure that weeds like wild parsnip are kept in check. And local culinary hot spots like Bridgehead, Red Apron, Beckta, and Absinthe all use Rideau Pines Farm products on their menu, so you can check it out in restaurants even if you don't make it out to the farm itself.
While local farms like Rideau Pines grow a huge spectrum of vegetables, mushrooms aren't on that list. But the team at Carleton Mushrooms are... fun guys. Since 1984, this second generation farm has been growing mushrooms (mostly white but about 20% cremini) in a fascinating indoor environment which is 100% organic, using hay and straw compost as their growing base. They're a significant employer in rural Ottawa, with over 125 people on their team, but most folks living in the area know them from their presence at local festivals and food fares.
Taken from the Zulu word for "rejoicing" or "a place of happiness," Jabulani is a small but growing vineyard. They have 11,000 vines, primarily cold climate grapes developed by the University of Minnesota specifically to withstand the frigid winters that pelt the Ottawa valley. Yes, wine can and does grow in Ottawa, one of the world's snowiest and coldest capital cities. Since 2011, Jabulani been serving the public at their tasting room with over 20 different red, white, rosé, and fruit wines, including Frontenac Blanc and Marquette. And rumour has it that hard cider and homemade cheese is on the horizon.
Where can you find apples and tacos at the same venue? The answer is surprising.
Log Cabin Orchard grows 7 varieties of apple, including the hugely popular MacIntosh and Cortland varieties, as well as lesser-known names like Liberty. Eager members of the public, who are invited to be a part of their you-pick program, can also fuel up with delicious homemade tacos before they head out to the orchard. (One of the owners of the orchard is originally from Mexico and her homemade salsa may just be the best in Ottawa.)
In addition to apples and tacos, other delicious goodies include freshly made churros, a wide range of jams and jellies, and plump pumpkins come autumn. This property is especially family friendly, with hayrides and fun activities for the kids.
A destination as sweet in spirit as it is in taste, this well-organized, welcoming you-pick blueberry farm features highbush blueberries (which means they're easy to pick - and to sample!). The property shares space with Canaan Road Farms, whose industrious bees pollinate the blueberries before returning home to make their delicious raw wildflower honey. And when the blueberry farm is closed for the season, this honey can be found at different foodie-favourite eateries around the city, including the hugely popular Black Walnut Bakery in nearby Cumberland -- a leader in supporting regional farms and producers.
While technically an agricultural museum, this charming small center likes to think of themselves as a museum of rural life. While it doesn't produce or sell food, they're one of the most important establishments in the city for lovers of the countryside.
The main museum building is a 1960s school, and local spirit blooms in their organic heritage garden of veggies, herbs, and flowers, which is open to anyone in the community to use. Their onsite, authentic mud oven bakes spectacular homemade bread just like the early settlers in the area would have done. If you have an interest in early farm tools, it's a must-see destination. But if your interests are more carbohydrate-inclined, their calendar of events highlights all of their special activities (including the foodie ones) and it's well worth the pretty drive to see the museum in action.
If you want to expand on the above list, connect with Just Food, a local Ottawa organization that coordinates the city's community gardens, organizes special events, and produces a visitor's guide to exploring all of the city's food producers.
They also administer the Savour Ottawa program, which highlights the restaurants, hotels, and tourism partners who support local farms and producers, perfect for visitors who want to experience the city's farm-to-table food scene but don't have the time to venture further afield. It's like an online cheat-sheet for the local dining scene and it will make any trip all the more delicious.
If you're heading to Canada's capital, make sure you carve out some time to explore the most rural city in the Great White North. You might just be surprised by how many good things can grow in a place that's practically polar come December.